This past spring my wife, Evelyn, received notification of a small insurance policy that had been taken out for her father through some kind of firefighters’ organization. She never knew anything about it until the insurance company sent the notification. She was required to send some documentation in order to have the policy sent to her, including a death certification for her father. She was also pursuing a death certificate for her brother at the same time, but that was taken care of with comparatively little anxiety.
Since we no longer had any certified copies of her father’s death certificate, we first contacted Burlington County, where his passing had taken place, to ask them to send us a couple of copies. It took some back-and-forth with them to determine that they had no such record, and we needed to contact the New Jersey State Bureau of Vital Statistics in Trenton, which we did in May. (I have no qualms about naming the agency, because everything I’m relating here can be backed up with documentation.)
They responded by saying that Evelyn’s application for the death certificate could not be processed because of some piece of missing information or other. As soon as she provided that information, they could proceed with processing the application. This went back and forth until July, the last such communication we have on record. We had not heard anything back since then until last Friday (Sept. 27). This time it was an email saying that Evelyn still had to provide information that, with one exception (related to her brother), she had already provided. The communication included a phone number (which none of the others had).
So, yesterday (Mon., Sept 30), we called the Bureau of Vital Statistics to find out why they continued to send requests for information that we had already provided. A young man answered the phone and asked for the application number, which Evelyn gave him. He offered to check with the person who would be responsible (well, I use that word advisedly) for processing the information, since he was simply working in the “call center.”
He left, and returned with the most outlandish, inconceivable, and utterly fantastic explanation we could have expected. Are you sitting down? The reason the State of New Jersey was unable to process the application for a death certificate for Evelyn’s father is because she had sent her father’s and her brother’s applications IN THE SAME ENVELOPE!! Had she sent them separately, they would have been assigned separate application numbers, and this confusion would have been avoided.
Are you kidding me? Let’s think this through: someone in the Vital Stats Bureau got an envelope — one envelope — from Evelyn, containing two (count them: two) separate applications with two different names, two different dates of birth, two different dates of death, two entirely different sets of personal information altogether, and, because they came IN THE SAME FRICKIN’ ENVELOPE, they assigned them the same application number!!
They then proceeded to process Evelyn’s brother’s application, but when they got to her father’s form, apparently became “head-scratching stumped” because his application number matched her brother’s application number. Oh, dear — what to do? Apparently, the standard response to a stumper like this is to send out an email to the person making the request saying that they need more information.
WHY?? Why would they do that?? They obviously can’t handle the “information overload” they’re holding in their hot little fists. How much more do they think they’re going to be able handle when it comes in? What’s to keep any new/duplicated information from confusing their already befuddled minds further?
I apologize to any competent government worker(s) who may be out there, but, to me, “competent government worker” right now is an oxymoron. If you do, in fact, perform your duties with competence, you are part of a rare breed, indeed. For most of my life, the prospect of having to deal with any level of government — local, county, state, federal — has given me agita. This most recent experience has done nothing to assure me that anything has changed.
Oh, by the way. The young man who answered the phone in the call center (and who, unfortunately, received the brunt of Evelyn’s frustration) assured us that the conjoined applications have been successfully separated, and the death certificate is now in the process of being duplicated and sent.
Well, praise the Lord.