This story is by Editor 57 and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
How It Works
Anna sat alone in the hard plastic chair at the Social Security Office downtown. She was nervous. Her two children were at school, luckily. Anna didn’t want them with her that day. She didn’t know what to expect.
“Number C203 to Window 4……….Now calling number C203 to Window 4…….”
Anna looked at the small slip of paper in her hands for the millionth time; to confirm it was really her number being called, and slowly rose from her chair to look for “Window 4…….”
The “office” where she was to meet with the Social Security representative was just a small opening in the wall, with another hard plastic chair in front of it. Anna sat down expectantly, with the paperwork she was told to bring in her hands.
“My name is Jenna. I’ll be going over the claims against you by the Social Security Office, and the IRS.” the representative stated tersely.
“IRS?!” exclaimed Anna, “What do you mean, IRS!?”
“It was brought to our attention that you are currently employed, and also hold a substantial life insurance policy. You never reported those sources of income. We need three years of documentation regarding your life insurance policy, and one year of pay stubs from your place of employment. Do you have that documentation Ms. Peterson?” the Social Security representative asked snidely.
“Like I told you over the phone,” Anna began; “I reported all of those sources of income when they happened. I don’t have a life insurance policy. I have an Individual Retirement Account that was willed to me by my dad. It’s only twenty thousand dollars. I’ve been disabled since I was a teenager; he knew I’d never be able to support myself, my Kids’, without some help. I only earn about four hundred fifty dollars a month!” Anna was getting angry. “I reported all of these things exactly when I was supposed to. I have proof!” She was trying to keep down the panic in her voice and control herself.
Anna pulled out the paperwork she had brought from one of her kid’s old school folders, and handed it over to ‘Jenna’. Jenna looked over the copies of check stubs, and the only paperwork Anna could procure in time with information about her Individual Retirement Account on it.
“Well Ms. Peterson,” Jenna began,“Since you’re earning over five hundred dollars a month gross income,along with your IRA,you’re losing your Social Security and Managed Health Insurance. You know that, right?”
“NO!” Anna’s yelled. “I have two letters here proving that I reported my job and my IRA to Social Security when I was supposed to. I followed the rules!” Anna declared, and produced the dated letters from the Social Security Administration.
The representative barely glanced at them, handing them back to Anna.
“Well, we don’t have record of you ever reporting this information to our office; therefore you can expect an elimination of your Social Security Income and Managed Health coverage starting within the next few weeks. Also, there will be a one hundred and thirty five dollar garnishment of your remaining SSDI payments to pay for your Medicare coverage hereafter. Do you have any questions Ms. Peterson?”
Anna sat dumbfounded. Losing her health insurance? Garnishing her SSDI? All for twenty thousand dollars, and a five hundred dollar a month income? She had two teenagers to support, she was all alone. What was she going to do?
Anna sat at her kitchen table later that day, waiting for her kids to come home from school. She wasn’t planning on telling them what had happened that day, or how drastically their lives would change. She would have to figure it out by herself.
Anna was furious! She had done the right things. She had done everything she had been told by the Social Security Administration, and work resource agencies for the disabled; only to have her ‘proof’ deemed illegitimate, to have her protection taken away, and to be talked to like a criminal.
IRS indeed! Why wasn’t she ever contacted by the IRS then? Why Now? It didn’t matter, what mattered now was making sure life didn’t change too much for her kids, even though she knew her own life was going to change drastically.
Anna didn’t have a moment to lose. She worked at her job at a private clinic in the mornings, but afternoons belonged to her until her kids came home from school. She went to the public library to look up ways to protect her resource, and to find health insurance plans that would cover what her family was losing. There wasn’t much to offer, since both she and one of her children suffered from a rare and complicated medical condition, but she had to find Something, Anything that would allow her family to continue to see their doctors’ and fill their medications.
After a few days of hunting, Anna hopped on her phone to call the few companies she could find, to inquire if she could obtain adequate medical, dental and prescription coverage from any of them. Things quickly became very confusing. There was so much double talk, vague rules; nothing made any sense.
Anna contacted a local advocacy agency. The advocate there helped Anna find ways to put her IRA ‘away’, so that at least for one more year, maybe longer if she was very careful; she could continue to provide a roof, food, clothing and an education for herself and her kids. The advocate tried to help Anna find health insurance for her family.
Anna continued to make phone calls, meet with advocates, and look for resources to find anything she could to protect her precious asset. That asset had been ‘the way out’. She was going to get a great job someday; she just knew it. That IRA was her little family’s ticket to a new life. Once Anna could obtain that job, she and her kids could have a better life. Anna had an education, she had solid skills; her body just didn’t work right sometimes, that was all. That was all. That was more than enough. But someday…..Anna knew she would make it; and when she did, the IRA would be the way to begin that new life. Now Anna had to think of a new plan.
The time of plenty went, bringing the time of constraint. Anna suffered many bouts of sickness and hospital visits, along with their costs; while trying to hold her job and solve her family’s problems. The solutions Anna found were far from perfect, but she had to take what she could get. They lived under the reduced circumstances as best as they could. Anna used the IRA money to pay for their increased medical expenses, and to put both of her kids through a driver’s education course. The money that was going to help them start a new life was dwindling down to virtually nothing.
One day while Anna was at the library surfing the internet, she saw a notice for a company in need of a freelance blogger.
“Hmmmmm, I wonder if I could do that?” mused Anna. She had written before. Not professionally, but a lot! She clicked on the email link, and read the information contained inside. Anna became excited for the first time in a long time. When she got home, she looked over some of her old journals, stories and articles to see if she could submit any of them. None of them really suited the agencies submission requirements. She needed to write something new and original.
Anna didn’t have much time to enter a submission. When she was as certain as she could be that she had written a good article, and had met all of the requirements, she submitted her entry and tried to forget about it.
Time passed. Anna made her usual visit to the library to check her email. When she had first entered her piece, Anna did searches of her email to see if she had gotten a response regarding her submission. Days and weeks went by; nothing. This day however, there it was; an email with the heading
Regarding your Submission to Flagstaff Writing Group……
Anna’s heart stopped for a moment. She caught her breath. She was excited and afraid to open the email, but she had to.
“OH MY GOD!” Anna screamed. “SSSSSSSHHHHHHHH!!!!” hushed everyone occupying the library, some aggressively.
Anna put her hand over her mouth and read the rest of the email. It said; “Dear Anna Peterson,
We have received and reviewed your submission for the Flagstaff Writing Group. The material contained in your piece, as well as your distinctive style of writing, is uniquely informative. We would like to discuss with you exploring possible employment opportunities with our agency.
Please contact our editor Alex Mayfair, to arrange a telephone interview to discuss possible writing positions with our agency. We look forward to hearing from you.
Dana Burch, Talent Representative Flagstaff Writing Group, Inc.”