Social Security Administration has been the bane of my existence.
It appeared my name change and sex designation change went seamlessly when I filed my original change (September 1978). Not quite.
I knew my name would pop up on SSA’s discrepancy list when I remained employed as a male while their file recorded me as Sharon and female. I had no surprise when I faced harassment at my federal workplace by my supervisor, management, and some co-workers who despised my presence at work, never mind that they violated the law when they exposed my personal privacy.
The kicker came from the post-‘9 / 11’ furor. Somehow, someway, and unbeknownst to me, SSA reverted my file to my former male identification. I was again on the discrepancy list – this time in reverse – I was employed as Sharon and female but SSA showed me as my male predecessor. AGH!
An agency manager where I worked in state government called me to her office (2007). She told me that my SSA file changed – that what had been Sharon and female in my file now showed me as male with a male name. She asked if I had a sex change – whether M-F in my past or currently under-going F-M in my present. It was none of her business – none of my employer’s ‘need to know’ – whether or not I had a sex change. In reality, I have always been female; my ‘change’ originated because medical personnel wrongly assigned me as male 59 years ago which resulted in the social, civic, and legal quagmire that I have spent more than 40 years correcting. My answer to that manager was ‘No’.
Never mind. That state agency had already set in motion their act to fire me because of my sex change.
Then I encountered those SSA haunts.
I went to SSA to enquire about my reverted status and what we needed to do to restore my identification as Sharon and female (2007). They instructed me to return to court and petition them to re-affirm my name and sex as I did originally in 1980. I promptly went to Superior Court; the judge summarily issued her court order re-affirming my name Sharon, my sex is female, and that my birth certificate be identified as such. Again, that was the easy part.
I submitted my 2007 court order to SSA expecting compliance with that order.
My state government employing agency fired me for being transsexual (August 2008). They tried covering their tracks using other excuses. No matter. I went through the Un-employment Insurance process and again substantiated that my employer exacted an intolerable work environment against me.
I returned to SSA this year (January 2015) to conduct routine business; that was when they told me that my sex designation was reverted to male. Huh? I spoke at least to five different agents during two separate visits. They refused to allow me to see my file or print SSA documents recording my efforts. They told me that, yes, they failed to correct my sex identification in 2007 despite my court order to that effect. And, yes, they have my certified court order right there in my file. But, no, they will not now correct what they failed to do. They told me that I would need to re-submit that exact same court order to them and then they would correct my file. Why could they not apply my document to their action now? Nope, they told me that they can’t do it but gave no explanation other than their bureaucratic ‘No’.
My problem was that my home was burglarised and ransacked last year; the criminals stole my medical records including my court order.
I browsed the Social Security Administration web-site and noticed their current instructions for sex change.
We’ll need to see a:
- Full-validity, 10-year U.S. passport showing the new gender;
- State-issued amended birth certificate showing the new gender;
- Court order directing legal recognition of change of gender; or
- -Medical certification of appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition in the form of an original letter from a licensed physician. The document must have enough biographical data (e.g., name and date of birth) to clearly identify you.
I soon learned how SSA leaves themselves wiggle room for their bureaucratic entanglements in a medical statement; they can obligate you to return multiple times to please their fancy as they did with me.
My endocrinologist prepared a document encouraging SSA to restore my sex identification to female; it seemed the easiest of the options. I returned to SSA with my physician’s letter and what I hoped would be better results (May 2015). The SSA agent denied my request. He demanded more information on the letter. At least I only had to meet with one agent this time. He was a bit more customer-friendly in his denial. This time that SSA agent was dutifull enough to print the SSA regulation (‘RM 10212.200′) listing the exact words they require for a medical professional to affirm their patient’s sex change. The agent told me to be certain the physician answers each of the six items exactly as posed and that SSA will then accept the doctor’s letter. If only the prior SSA agents had done that.
As we spoke, that agent told me that he was looking at that same 2007 court document and offered that I could resubmit a new certified copy of that same court document as an alternate to the medical statement and then he will re-re-correct my sex identification to female that SSA erroneously reverted to male. He told me that he can’t apply the certified original he already has in my file. This agent refused to tell me why and when SSA reverted my record; he told me that SSA will change it when I re-submit that exact same 2007 court document. AGH!
I went directly to my endocrinologist for a new letter; that seemed the quicker approach. Drats! She is on vacation for two weeks. Well, waiting two more weeks is nothing compared to dealing with SSA for all these many years. I also considered returning to Superior Court and applying for another new legal affirmation. Nope – it now costs nearly $400. I’ll wait for the good doctor.
Medicare had been paying their portion of my medical services since I began (2011). I attended to my medical care as female and their record documented me as female. This was our match in the system. Yet somewhere in the SSA / MC system, someone or some computer glitch is flipping my gender identification.
MediCare sent a letter informing me that they will charge $850 to me for my urgent care treatment (May 2015); SSA wrongfully reverted my status to male sometime again and led MC to reject my May 2015 medical bill because of their discrepancy. My medical record since 1978 had been female versus SSA’s now reverted record as male. I called MC’s billing and claims offices’ toll-free line. I first spoke to Amanda. She was VERY courteous and understanding; she told me that I was her first sex change. She recognised my file documented female for all those years then was changed to male without remarks – but that she had no authority to correct SSA’s error. She wrote a note to my file to ignore this current discrepancy. Amanda transferred me to Kay, another agent. Kay told me she corrected my billing file to female and that at least this issue will not occur again. At least those two SSA employees are not hyper-bureaucratic.
These are problems that can surely arise no matter how well or how long you think they have been resolved – including a second MediCare billing discrepancy letter.
In light of the above, I returned to SSA with my two medical letters to re-correct my SSA file. I offered to my endocrinologist to write the medical letters myself so that they would be 100% accurate, but she declined. Her letters are not accurate but at least she wrote whatever it took in her letters to get the job done at SSA. I am her first transsexual and have been guiding her through this. The SSA agent corrected my sex designation to female for what seemed the umpteenth time. When I returned two days later to verify my corrected MediCare card, the MC agent told me that my sex designation had been again reverted to male after SSA corrected it to female on Wednesday. I returned to the waiting line to speak with the SSA agent. They again corrected my sex designation to female. I returned to the MC agent. He acknowledged my sex designation is again female, but that he won’t know for certain until another five business days elapse whether it is permanent or reverted back to male. AGH! This was not how I expected to spend my Friday.
I was left with little to say but dig deep into my sense of humour. I joked to the agent that SSA has changed my sex more times this year than many sex change surgeons have performed operations this year.
I never expected in 1978 that I would be doing this in 2015.