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Local centers in Solon and Strongsville helping older Americans navigate the Social Security system

Posted at 10:41 AM, Nov 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 17:21:15-05

In our 5 On Your Side on-going investigation “Social Insecurity”, our research shows there are very few consistent resources for people who have questions about Social Security. Some people just need advice or a few tips to navigate the system. So, we went searching for those resources in our community who are there to help.

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It was a full house at the Solon Senior Center when we brought our camera. Older folks playing with the cards they're dealt. Kind of like Daniel Gallik and his Social Security. 

"It's a difficult situation,” said Gallik.

Gallik told us he earned enough to get Social Security benefits, but the government said he shouldn't get full Social Security payments even though he's earned the required credits.

Gallik said he and his wife sometimes have to shuffle through the Social Security telephone hotline when they have concerns. 

"It's like a long wait and then you're lucky if you do get on," Gallik told us.

So, what do you do? Where do you turn?  We called a ton of senior centers in our area and had a hard time finding a specific resource on a regular basis for seniors to ask questions.

However, Solon Senior Center's ace-in-the-hole for Social Security is Yvette Hasan, a licensed social worker. 

“(Social Security is) not supposed to be complex, but it absolutely is," said Hasan. She told us every other day she fields questions about Social Security. “Are you getting ready to retire? What should I do? How should that happen? Navigating social security," said Hasan.

For people like Gallik who get teachers’ pension or Ohio public employees get an OPERS pension, there’s a rule that says some of them have qualified for Social Security benefits. But then there’s another rule that flips that upside down saying they don’t qualify. 

"Does that sound right to you?" we asked.

"Absolutely not. It's hard to explain sometimes because…you know….(for example some people) worked Social Security for a long time and now (they’re) OPERS. (They) want both," said Hasan.

Older Americans at the Strongsville Senior Center have to stretch out their finances as Social Security shaves off some dollars. 

“We try to save our seniors money where ever possible," said Sheena Wright, the center’s Family Preservation Coordinator.

Wright knows how difficult Social Security can be and the financial issues people face. 

"I've seen seniors who are living on one income. They're widowed. And they have this house that has expenses that they just can't afford anymore,” Wright explained.

That's why their center taps some valuable resources to help. “We also have a financial advisor who will come in once a month and meet one-on-one with somebody,” said Wright. “(And) do a free consultation."

It's a tough picture to paint when you don't know the colors you have or the cards you hold. So, Wright and Hasan are two dealers of information in this crazy game of older life. “You need to have this, this, this and this. So, we'll do a checklist,” said Hasan.

"Why would you have to pay a financial counselor to help you with Social Security? Does that make sense? I don't think so,” said Gallik.

If you have questions, comments or concerns about Social Security, fill out this feedback form. We’ll track your issues as we dig further into the Social Security Administration.

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