Posted by on November 19, 2019

Boy, am I loaded for bear today!  The lack of qualified personnel working in state government continues to be proven over and over.

I had written in this space a while back about our frustrations while dealing with the New Jersey Department of Health, which is apparently responsible for handling the work of the Bureau of Vital Statistics.  Earlier this year Evelyn had been notified that her father had a small insurance policy through his work as a firefighter.  The policy (of which we were unaware all this time) had never been cashed in.  We could do that as long as we could provide the company with Evelyn’s father’s death certificate.  

Evelyn didn’t have a death certificate for her father, nor one for her brother (who also had a small policy that needed to be cashed in), so she obtained the required documents to fill in and send back to New Jersey.  After a fairly significant amount of time, she received a certificate for her brother, but not her father.  When she inquired about the missing certificate, the person to whom she was talking asked for the numbers that had been assigned to the two application forms.  It turned out that the forms for both Evelyn’s father and brother had been assigned the same number!  Why?  Because, as Evelyn was told, she had sent them both in the same envelope!!  Apparently, you must send each application in its own envelope so the State can tell the difference between the two.  If you put two applications in one envelope — even though they contain totally different information — the State assumes that you have sent two identical applications and will automatically assign the same number to both.

So, Evelyn had to fill out a whole new application for just her father’s death certificate, which she did on July 24th.  We waited for three months, and finally, Evelyn called to see if anyone could tell her the whereabouts of her application.  As God is my witness, I’m not making this up: the woman told her that it was mailed earlier that day!

Well, hooray and hallelujah.

So we watched our mail for nearly a week after that, becoming more and more suspicious that the State of New Jersey employs not only incompetent people, but also people who basically lie by tossing out modified versions of the old cliche, “The check is in the mail.”

But, sure enough, yesterday (Mon., Nov. 18th), there was a small brown envelope in the mail from the New Jersey Department of Health.  I handed it to Evelyn with a bit of a flair, as though to say, “We can finally proceed.”

However, when Evelyn opened the rather thick envelope, our hearts sank again.  Inside were all the application forms she had submitted (including two copies of her driver’s license, documentation from the funeral home where arrangements had been made, verification forms showing Evelyn as her father’s daughter, a copy of her birth certificate and our marriage certificate, etc.), along with the check dated July 23rd, and a “Vital Record Request Deficiency Letter” stamped “VOID — 11/8/19.”  

Evelyn has decided that she’ll try calling the department directly and asking to speak with the supervisor.  Failing that, I think it will be time to contact some consumer help agency (Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate, Channel 6, has a “Call for Action” service, for example) or perhaps a letter to the Trenton Times to shine a spotlight on all this wasted time and resources.  There is no reasonable explanation for this kind of nonsense just to get a copy of a death certificate.  

“Frustration” hardly describes our feelings right now.

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