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Red Tape Over Social Security Entangles Wake Forest Woman

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WAKE FOREST, N.C. — When you are owed a check, you might think it would be a fairly easy process. But when the process takes almost a year, you start to wonder. It made one Wake Forest woman wonder whether she would ever see her check.

When it comes to Social Security, different rules apply. They are listed on page after page of the administration's Web site. But despite following the rules, Mary Whittemore could not get money she deserved.

"Why (do you) have to fight a whole bureaucracy for it?" she asked.

Whittemore is fighting the bureaucracy for her brother, Steven Parillo, who died suddenly at age 50. Whittemore handled his estate, which included an uncashed Social Security disability check for $554.

She said that last February, she took the check to the Henderson Social Security office for processing and was told it would take three months. After more than six months of waiting and phone calls, a final check of her case status got a very bureaucratic response.

"If they went ahead and pulled the paperwork, then they would put it back on the bottom of the pile and I'd have to start the process all over again. So, they scared me from pursuing it any further," she said.

Now, almost a year later, Whittemore still did not have the revised check. She called Five On Your Side, who also went through a maze of calls, getting almost constant busy signals along the way.

Finally, Five On Your Side reached Social Security Administration spokesman Ron Stevens, who said the process should take about four months. As for Whittemore's case, he said, "We made a mistake." Whittemore's paperwork had een lost. Stevens promised to "expedite" the process -- a process that has already taken almost a year.

"I have to keep worrying about this and thinking about it, and I don't really want to do that anymore," Whittemore said. "I want to put this behind me."

Whittemore already received her new paperwork, completed it, and sent it back. Stevens told Five On Your Side once the administration gets it, Whittemore will get her $554 check within 10 days.