Family finally gets check
Social Security payments were delayed for months
Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009
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Staff photo by EMILY BARNES
Trenton Frazier, 8, had to prove that he was alive and living with his dad in Waldorf before the Social Security Administration finally released several payments that were owed to him and his family.
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A Waldorf couple's frustrating battle with the Social Security Administration ended on a happy note this weekend when they finally received several months worth of payments that were owed to their 8-year-old son.
James Frazier, 36, and his wife, Patricia Laracuente, had been trying since September to obtain money that was owed to Frazier for his son, Trenton, after his mother died. The couple did their share to clear up the mess, including taking several trips to the Social Security office in Camp Springs and making countless phone calls that always ended with the promise that the "check was in the mail."
The money arrived in Frazier's bank account Saturday after he spoke to the Maryland Independent about the situation last week.
"I was surprised that the funds were in my bank account," he said Monday. "It's come at a perfect time. My immediate plans are to ensure that the children have a good Christmas."
"I'm thrilled the money finally came through," Laracuente said. "I'm just sorry it took so much effort for something that should have been simple."
The boy's mom, Courtney Weschler, died in August and she was receiving an SSA check for her son. When she died, Frazier and his wife took over full-time custody of Trenton and the SSA checks were supposed to be deposited into his and his son's bank account, Frazier said.
The most frustrating incident that occurred since Frazier began his quest to straighten out the snafu in mid-September happened on Nov. 14 when he was told that Trenton was entered into the Social Security system as deceased. He was told that he would have to bring his son to the Camp Springs office with several different forms of identification and the boy would have to write a note on a Social Security form that he was alive and living with his dad.
The experience was overwhelming for Trenton, who had just lost his mother and was trying to adjust to living full time with his dad, Laracuente said.
"We never told him about Social Security listing him as dead," she said last week. "He had enough to deal with."
To make matters worse, Trenton was trying to keep a perfect attendance record at Arthur Middleton Elementary School and taking a day off to go to the Social Security office messed up his goal, Laracuente said.
Frazier said Trenton was supposed to sign his name on the form but he can't write cursive yet so his grandmother helped him pen the note and sign it for him.
"He wasn't happy about having to write the statement," Frazier said.
"He was obviously frustrated and upset that he had to write that he was alive and well and living with me. He was upset about the whole process."
To resolve the "death" issue the agency had to fill out a "resurrection" form to put Trenton back in the system, Frazier said he was told Nov. 18, adding that the Social Security representative said the mistake was a "clerical error."
"I asked the representative if it was a clerical error why can't they just click a button and fix it?" he said last week. "A whole rain forest full of trees has been hacked into paper and this still isn't resolved."
Frazier said he began receiving Social Security Administration disability insurance payments in 2003 when he was declared legally blind because of a genetic eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa. When a parent receives SSDI money, biological dependent children are paid half of whatever the disabled parent receives each month.
Frazier said the $3,776 that was owed to his son is desperately needed to help with the full-time care of Trenton. Laracuente and Frazier were married two years ago and Laracuente's 8-year-old daughter, Illiona Laracuente, also lives with the couple.
Laracuente has a temporary job to help the family get through the holiday season and she also operates a small online business out of the couple's St. Charles home, but money is tight and the situation was getting worse as each month crawled by while SSA officials tried to resolve the issue, Laracuente said.
"We're on limited income, and every time I take time off of work I lose money," she said.
"With my fixed income I have a hard time paying the mortgage and we have another child that we have to provide for," Frazier said.
"I just want this issue resolved. I don't want to waste anymore of my time to clear up somebody else's error."
U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer's office entered the fray several weeks ago at the couple's request to see if the congressman could find out why Trenton had still not received payments from Social Security.
"They did come to our office seeking assistance and we are working with them to resolve this issue," said Stephanie Lundberg, Hoyer's press secretary, last week.
Social Security officials said last week that the situation needed to be resolved as quickly as possible. Once the agency received some information about the case from the newspaper the tangled paper trail began to unravel.
"We've gotten the child back into the system," said Aidan Diviny, SSA spokesman, Dec.4. "Everything is taken care of. He's back into current pay status and the checks will start coming on a monthly basis."
Frazier said the money could not have arrived at a better time as Christmas draws near.
"It appears that the paper was able to pull the right chain with Social Security to get it done and Mr. Diviny's research and work made it happen," he said.