Memo to Social Security Administration: Madeline Otto of Tequesta is still alive — and ticked off.
“Are you causing trouble again?” I asked Otto on Monday. “Last year, you were too young, and now you’re too old.”
I wrote about Otto last year when she attempted to set up a charge account at Stein Mart in order to save $10 on a new pair of shoes for her 100th birthday party.
Her credit-card request was denied at the register after the cashier entered her year of birth, 1912. Otto assumed she was being denied credit because she was too old.
But that wasn’t the case. The computer, which only required the last two digits of her her birth year, assumed she was born in 2012, not 1912. So she was denied credit for being too young at age 99, not too old.
Stein Mart later apologized for the mistake, gave Otto her credit and a $50 gift card.
And now she’s 100, looking forward to her 101st birthday in the fall. And she’s still battling age issues.
In April, she was hospitalized for internal bleeding. It turned out to be a malignant tumor on her colon.
“The doctor didn’t want to operate on me because I was too old,” she said. “But I found another doctor who would, and here I am today as healthy as you.”
The latest in the trifecta of bothersome reminders of her advanced age came in the mail this month from the Social Security Administration.
“We want to talk to you about your Social Security benefits,” the letter said. “We periodically review the records of persons who receive Social Security benefits to insure we are paying the benefits correctly.”
The letter asked her to set up a day when a Social Security employee could visit her in her home, and that she should have her identification card ready to verify her identity.
Otto smelled trouble.
“She is so damn sharp,” her neighbor Pat Adams said. “Nobody can pull anything on her.”
Otto called the number and set up an appointment, then asked for Adams to sit with her when the Social Security representative was scheduled to be there.
“I don’t hear that well or see that well, and I wanted somebody with me,” Otto said.
The Social Security representative didn’t show up when scheduled. So Adams called the office for her friend.
“We found out the man who was supposed to come had an emergency, so then I tried to talk to a supervisor,” Adams said. “I was on the phone for over a half-hour, and then the supervisor was supposed to call back in 20 minutes, but she never did. So after 45 minutes I called back and was told that she was in a meeting.”
Otto never heard back from the office that day. So she wrote the Social Security Administration a letter, complaining about all the waiting around she had to do, and the calls that weren’t returned.
“I expect to know why you wanted this visit,” Otto wrote.
That’s when I explained to her that she has managed to go from being too young at 99 to too old at 100.
“They’re just checking to make sure you’re here,” I said.
And not like Janet Kelly, 89, of suburban Lake Worth, who died in her bathroom in 1987 and continued to get monthly Social Security checks until 2011. That happened because Kelly’s daughter had concealed Kelly’s death by burying her in her backyard.
The daughter’s fraudulent collection of her mother’s government checks was uncovered when the Social Security Administration scheduled a home visit to check on Kelly and discovered the daughter’s deception.
When you get to be 100, you stand to get visited by Social Security. Eventually.
I pity the government worker who knocks on Otto’s door, where a very alive and feisty woman awaits to deliver an earful about punctuality and phone manners.
“I am very upset, and I do not need this at my age,” she said.