Andy Canfield
Information Management Systems
andycanfield@yandex.com

I am trying to get U. S. Social Security. I applied online. Their site is REALLY messed up. Go to www.ssa.gov/onlineservices and you will see what I an talking about.

What Time Is It?

Near the upper right corner is a section entitled "Online Hours of Operation". It says, for example, "Monday - Friday 5 AM - 1 AM ET". I think that means that the site goes down at one AM Eastern Standard Time or one AM Eastern Daylight Time. That's in how many hours? I don't know! I live in Thailand. Thailand is 12 hours ahead of EST but I have no idea whether the east coast of the United States is on EST or EDT today.

A big improvement in their web site would be to add a line that shows mw what time it is right now in the server's time zone. So if I bring up this web page at 3AM my time it will tell me that ET is now 4 pm. Then I would know that rhe site goes down in a few hours.

But the last line of this section is the worst, It reads Federal Holidays - Same hours as the day of the week the holiday occurs. So if today is a U.S. Federal Holiday, the site will be down. I live in Asia: Tiday is Monday September 28. How can I know whether Uncle Sam is taking a holiday today?

Online Hours of Operation certainly implies that the web site goes DOWN every night. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Do the secretaries pull the plug on the server as they walk out the door?

Character Set

When I applied for Social Security on-line, it asked for my home address. My home address is in Thailand; secifically อำเภอ บ้านไผ่, จังหวัด ขอนแก่น. That's how I discovered that the Social Security web site will not accept Thai chatacters. Thai characters are in UTF-8 (the "U" stands for "Universal") which most of the World Wide Web uses. Americans are so provincial!

A Dead Link

Poiny your browser to
http://www.ssa.gov/onlineservices/#a0=0
This is what I see:

See where it says "Check your application status". That's a link - click on it.

Bad news. That links redirects you to a server named "secure.ssa.gov", and that server deliberately refuses any contact from any machine outside the USA. My daughter in Louisiana can go there, but I, in Thailand, can not. Even my friend in Germany can not. You see where it says "What You Can Do Online"? They're lying to you; you cannot. SSA has deliberately fudged the Internet so that people outside the USA cannot check their status. That's not security, that's paranoia.

Which Months

There are several places in the online application where you are asked to mark one or more months. There is a checkbox for January, a checkbox for February, etc. There is also a convenient checkbox for "All months". Great. Except that in my case the true answer is "No months". So I left all the checkboxes blank,

At the end, the web site complained that I did not answer the question. Finally, in order to get past this bug, I had to go back and check the box for January.

This happened three or four times on the site. I remember that the first such question was about which months I worked less than 45 hours in that month. I am retired, living in Thailand, not working at all. If you want me to help you, I will help you, but I am not legally employed in any month.

IRS Forms

On the last page, called "Summary", the web site gave me links to two Internal Revenue Service forms that the Social Security Service wants from me. You'd better write those down. Since I clicked on the submit button it has proven impossible to get back to that page to find out what Internal Revenue Service forms Social Security Service wants to see.

Personally calling the tax collector a "Service" is like calling the Mafia a Service. But that's my feeling. I guess the Mafia Service doesn't share that feeling.

Phones

The Social Security Administration believes that email is insecure. So they want me to call them in Washington D.C. Guys, I have given you my phone humber already. That's MY money you are holding; you pay for the call, I'm not phoning halfway around the world just to listen to another recording.

Result

Because their broken web site cannot show me the status of my application, I have re-applied by email to [acsbkk@state.gov]. That stands for American Citizen Services ar the Bangkok Embassy of the United States State Department. Thry wrote that they will forward my information to the Social Security Office in Manilla. But I have not heard yet from Manilla. ACS Bangkok seem like a reasonable bunch of people.

All this is terribly frustrating. I have given them my Social Security Number. All they have to do is type that into their computer to find out how much money they should send me every month. The only mystery is where to send it. Their computer systems will tell them when I paid into Social Security, how much, how old I am, etc.

I have given them the URL of my web site (www.andycanfield.com). The first thing on that web site is a page entitled "Contact Me", which lists various ways that anyone, including the Social Security Administration, can reach me.

Good day, bad day

Friday morning 16 October I finally had the "mandatory interview" with the social security lady in Manila. We talked for about an hour. Mostly she was going over my answers to the online application I filled out a month ago.

The GOOD NEWS was that the Manila social security lady says that social security can give me about one thousand seven hundred dollars per month. At the current exchange rate of 35.5 baht per dollar, that's sixty thousand baht a month, more than twice what we have been living on.

The Manila lady also said that if I get U.S. citizenship for my son Wing, social securit can pay 'benefits' directly to him. What I said was "I'll think about it." What I was thinking was "My son is not for sale". In my opinion it's better to be a Thai citizen than to be an American citizen.

The Manila lady emailed me a form, social security form 1199. She said that the Banphai branch of Bangkok Bank has to fill out that form and sign it and then I must scan the form and email it back to Manila. So we got it printed and took it to the Banphai branch of Bangkok Bank.

The BAD NEWS is that the lady at Bangkok Bank insists that before they can fill out form 1199 they must see my social security card.

The Manila lady insists that should not be necessary. I don't have a social security card. In order to get one I must appear in person at the U.S. embassy in Bangkok; a bus trip to Bangkok of eight hours each way.

So that's where it's hung right now. Social security Manilla is waiting for Bangkok Bank Banphai to fill out form 1199. amd Bangkok Bank Banphai is waiting to see my social security card which Social security Manilla won't give me. Each is waiting for the other.

So I made my own social security card using my computer and image editing software and had the local print shop print it. five copies.

U.S. Social Security is yelling at Thai Bangkok Bank, and Thai Bangkok Bank is yelling at U.S. Social Security. Two governments are yelling at each other. There's a word for that: "war".

We should never forget what my father and his friends did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

More relevant, perhaps, is what I and my friends from San Fantasia did to the Pentagon and to Richard Nixon. In each case their arrogance recruited enemies, who joined us in driving them over the cliff.

Today my friends and I are getting to retirement age. We are starting to deal with the U.S. Social Security Administration. And once again I am seeing the federal arrogance that creates enemies.

I am trying to keep both sides satisfied. But I obey God and Buddha, not Uncle Sam.