(CBS) — A widow in desperate need of her husband’s survivor benefits from Social Security is stone-walled for five months, until 2 Investigator Pam Zekman gets involved.
“I was very angry, very upset and I felt that the government let me down,” Darlene Groth, who was recently widowed, tells Zekman.
Groth says her husband Daniel told her before he died that she wouldn’t have to worry about money.
“When my husband was sick there was one thing we always sat and talked about,” Groth recalls. “”Don’t worry, Dar, you got my half of my pension and you’ll have Social Security, and you’ll be able to make ends meet.’”
But Groth had serious problems after she applied for survivors benefits from Social Security last August. She was told the money would arrive in 30 to 45 days, but it didn’t.
Groth called and came to the Social Security offices in Waukegan multiple times to find out what was going on with her benefits.
“They said, ‘Well, you’re probably being processed, so it’ll take a little while,’” Groth says. “This is something I’m entitled to and your continually telling me I’m being processed.”
During another visit months later, she says another employee told her, “Oh my goodness, you must have fallen between the cracks.”
“He said, ‘Watch me, I’m going on the computer right now and I’m going to make you a priority and I can assure you that within 30 to 45 days you’ll see that check,’” Groth says.
“I was up the creek without a paddle until I called you,” Groth adds.
Within days after the 2 Investigators called the Social Security Administration, the sum of $4,594 was deposited in her bank account for benefits due back to August. Her $1,648 benefit check is set to arrive this month.
Groth says she was “amazed” at the quick resolution.
A Social Security spokesperson says the normal processing time is about two weeks and Groth’s five-month delay was due to “an oversight by an employee.” He did not answer questions about exactly what the oversight was, adding they are unaware of any similar complaints
“I think this is actually quite common,” counters Lawrence Kotlikoff, Professor of Economics at Boston University.
Kotlikoff, an outspoken, critic of the Social Security Administration, says death-benefit payment delays can be a nightmare for grieving spouses.
“This has to be fixed,” Kotlikoff said. “It’s the right thing to do, and Social Security is an organization that has to be fixed from the bottom up.”
At least Darlene Groth is now getting her money.
“You really came through for me and I can’t thank you enough,” she says.
The agency spokesperson also apologized for the inconvenience and said Social Security does everything possible to process widows’ claims quickly.