Mark Harvey — A little this and that

It’s the first day of March in 2014 and, in all likelihood, most of us have already weathered more than a few … milestones, the most harrowing of which may have been Valentine’s Day! If it wasn’t, and IF you haven’t dealt with taxes yet, I hope you stashed some chocolate away to get you through the experience.

So, what’s up on March 1st? Let’s take it easy, with a little this and that, OK? Here’s a “this”:

If you haven’t already bumped into it, last month Social Security stopped providing benefit verification letters in their offices as well as Social Security number printouts. Why? The usual: Budget cuts, tra la. So, what are we supposed to do? The usual: Get everything online! Tra la.

Now, in fairness, I’ve actually tried doing both of these online and they work remarkably well. What you need to do is go to and register or a “my Social Security” account, and there are, actually, more than a few benefits in doing that, because you have instant access to a lot of info and tools, and stuff; also, you can get what you need (e.g. benefit verification) immediately!

You can also get what you need by calling 1-800-772-1213, get comfortable with some of that leftover Valentine’s chocolate, and wait; eventually, you’ll speak to a genuinely helpful person who will actually help you, and in 5-7 days, you’ll get what you want through what’s left of the post office. Employers, departments of motor vehicles and other “entities” needing said info can get what they need via “E-Verify” and/or Social Security’s Business Services, so we all live happily ever after.

So, what’s my underlying tinge of cynicism? Well, this is all well-and-good for folks who have computers and internet access and are reasonably comfortable in that environment, b if you’re not any one of those — oops! But, so it goes and it isn’t going to change, so if you need help, call any of the numbers at the end of this column and decent people will help you for free, without requisitioning your chocolate.

Here’s a “that:” I think most of us have figured out that a family’s health history can be a huge source of information and insight to a medical provider who is trying to help somebody with something right now. It helps them to know what they might be looking for, which might suggest where to look and how to “look,” etc- Good! The problem is that many people, particularly younger people, may not have the foggiest id about the family’s health history, because the only one who knew anything about it was Auntie Alma Albuquerque who ran away to Paris to become a street artist 15 years ago — oops! So …what? So, get it while you can (the family health info, that is).

One pretty good way of gathering that info is to go to (yes, another web site) and download a cool tool called, “My Family Health Portrait” — free. It’s a pretty straightforward guide to what to ask and how (and where) to keep the answers, so do it for the kids. Yes, I realize that they may not care (now) or may not act like they care (now), but I’ll give you good odds that they’ll start caring, at some point. Probably at about the point that they figure out that you were a whole smarter than you seemed — and they weren’t.

I see that a thread has emerged here; specifically, computer-type stuff, so here are two “this-es:”

Do you remember that we have a FACEBOOK page? Yes! Really! Just go to “Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information &Assistance,” and BOOM! There we are! (“… hrrumph,” you say. “I don’t do FACEBOOK.”)

OK, how about TWITTER? No, I’m not kidding: @Olympic3A. Really! Updated a LOT! (You shrug, thinking, “I don’t do social media…)

OK, how about a web site? Yes! and there we are! And there’s our entire online resource directory and all manner of amazing info, and you won’t have to give up a credit card, a Social Security number (which you could get online) OR your first-born child, who is woefully ignorant of his family’s health history!

See how this all comes together? Amazing, isn’t it? And it’s only March 1st!

OK, I know — now, where did you stash that chocolate?

Mark Harvey is the director of Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information &Assistance.


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