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Social Security staffing
Recently, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden was calling for the reopening of Social Security Administration offices to the public, an action long overdue.
There is a major problem however in that the agency doesn’t have enough staff to barely answer the phone let alone process claims. Less than 3 percent of the more than 2 million civilian federal workforce work for Social Security, although I think it is unquestionably the most important federal agency. Many incoming phone calls will get a message stating that most things can be done at home on their own computer.
People have cost themselves millions by doing their own online retirement claims. Conversely many folks have also been overpaid by selecting the wrong month to claim benefits. These pale in comparison to filing online disability claims.
Filing for disability benefits is a complex process and a person filing a claim online can cause many problems. There should be a face-to-face interview somewhere in the claims process, either by a Social Security employee or a disability examiner. Thousands of people die waiting for their case to be heard. One could assume that these people had serious illnesses. No one should have to hire a lawyer to get them the benefits they deserve.
Recently an online program was introduced to enable people to apply for Social Security’s SSI welfare program. How many homeless people carry a laptop computer? Social Security representatives used to man contact stations in rural areas, visit hospitals and care facilities and even made home visits.
Lastly, there will be thousands of complex survivor claims due to COVID-19 deaths. At the current staffing levels, the back logs could be staggering!
Making memories at the theater
With theaters reopening recently, I expected to see hordes of people fighting to grab a box of popcorn, a soft drink, and maybe some Reese’s Pieces, but those expectations have been shattered. It should be said that I understand that attending a movie is a non-essential activity, and with the rise of a new variant it seems ridiculous to partake in such things, but for me, a student of film at the University of Maine, going to the movies is my haven.
I’ve been going to the cinemas since I was a boy, and believe that going to see a movie is an American pastime that many people overlook. With the rise of streaming platforms allowing people to save money and stay at home to get their movie fix, going to the theater seems like an outdated activity. Here’s the catch though: going to the theater isn’t about the movie, it’s about the experience.
For roughly two hours, people are transported into another world. All that exists is them, the screen and whatever reality the director has placed them in. The idea of being transfixed as characters jump around the screen and their hand fumbles for more popcorn is a part of human life that has been lost to platforms that exist only in our homes.
Once we’ve reached our new normal, I urge everyone to please go to the theater. They can bring their children, bring their parents and bring their friends. Go and make memories. I assure people that they will never forget it.
Fair treatment for tribes
The latest skirmish over traditional Penobscot territory signals a deeper unfairness in the treatment of all the Wabanaki nations of Maine. (Bangor Daily News, “Penobscot Nation wants to take its fight over water rights to the Supreme Court,” Aug. 3.)
Due to a quirk in political history, the four federally recognized tribes in Maine are not yet treated equally to the 570 other Native nations in the United States. Maine tribal members are denied rights and benefits enjoyed by every other tribe outside of Maine.
That’s clearly unfair. It’s past time to correct this injustice.
A fair deal would grant Maine tribes the same authority as tribes in every other state to manage natural resources, enforce laws and self-govern on their own lands. Fortunately, the Maine Legislature has an opportunity to ensure equal treatment of Maine tribes. Pending state legislation would go a long way toward righting this wrong, when passed and signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills.
Please urge your state representative, state senator and the governor to support LD 1626 to treat Maine tribes as fairly as every other tribe in the country.