Monday, November 21, 2011

Where's the security in these ID requirements?

My 85-year-old mother is being ripped off by the US government's Department of Homeland Security. I know, you probably will find it hard to believe that the idiocy of their mindless bureaucracy would do this to the incompetent doddering widow of a deceased WWII veteran, but here are the facts:

Since being ripped off by scam artists a number of years ago, my mom can no longer manage her affairs. My sisters and I have full power of attorney for control of her finances. Recently, my sister was going through some of Mom's many files of papers and found a $50 Treasury Bond. It hasn't come to maturity yet, but depositing the $31 value to Mom's account would allow her to pay for some meds and we wouldn't lose the piece of paper in the morass of Mom's effects.

I took the bond to the local branch of Mom's bank, along with my POA, but to cash in the savings bond and deposit it to her account, Mom would have to appear in person. She lives 400 miles from me. So I packed the bond in my bag for my next visit, and Mom and I dutifully went to the bank branch near her Assisted Living home.

At the bank, I learned that Mom's expired driver's licence, which the Department of Homeland Security's TSA airport checkpoints accepted for a flight ID just 18 months ago, was not valid for cashing in the savings bond. Since she no longer drives, the bank teller said Mom would have to get a "permanent non-driver's ID". Fortunately, that office was only a few blocks away.

At the "driver's services" office, I learned Mom would first have to get her birth certificate – the kind with a raised seal, not the copy she already has – because her expired license wasn't sufficient identity proof for the Department of Homeland Security requirements. Wait a minute – just because it's expired, a state-issued photo ID is less proof than asking for a copy of an 85-year-old piece of plain paper? Oh, but her name changed since birth, so she'd also need proof of her marriage. And a 5-year ID would cost $5 or $8 for a 10-year ID.

But what about the permanent ID? She's 85, not moving out of Assisted Living, and has the stamina, if not mental competence, to live past 100 – and I sure don't want to go through the escalating hoops of this process again! Well, the permanent IDs are issued to veterans or their widows by another department on the other side of town. And for that ID, she'd need proof of her husband's service in WWII and his death certificate. The driver's license department didn't know the cost for that ID, but clearly fees for the additional documentation alone would cost more than their temporary non-driver ID.

Are these people crazy? My mother is 85. She's never going to drive. She's never going to move. She might never even fly again. But getting the documentation to cash in a $31-value savings bond would cost me more than the proceeds from the bond in fees and the gas for my return trip (or to hire someone else) to take my incapacitated mother to get the damn ID. And that doesn't even count the value of my time to gather the documentation and drive there.

The excessive paperwork required to get a valid ID for an incompetent little old lady to cash in her Treasury bond is a barrier to my mom's financial security. That seems to defeat the concept behind creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
I wonder... what you think.

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