By Neena Strichart
Tuesday morning I had what I consider to be a real dream come true. After last week receiving an invitation to a Social Security Administration (SSA) press conference set in Beverly Hills for 10am March 23, I practically held my breath until the big day arrived. Why would I be so excited to attend an SSA event? Let me tell you.
The festivities were being held to promote the SSA’s new television public service announcements (PSAs) featuring the cast from the 1960s sitcom The Patty Duke Show. Cast members featured in the TV spots include Anna Marie “Patty” Duke as identical cousins Patty and Cathy Lane, William Schallert as Patty’s TV father, Martin Lane aka Poppo, Eddie Applegate as Patty’s TV boyfriend (now TV husband– Richard) and Paul O’Keefe as Patty’s TV brother Paul. Unfortunately Mr. Schallert wasn’t able to make an appearance, but the rest of the cast was there with bells on. I was thrilled.
Not only did I grow up watching and loving The Patty Duke Show, I was a big Patty Duke fan. When I was 14 years old, my parents and I met her in Palm Springs at a charity celebrity baseball game. She was there with her then boyfriend (and the nation’s teen heartthrob) Desi Arnaz Jr. Mom and Dad were in the bleachers watching the game, Desi was out there hitting and fielding the ball, and Patty and I sat on the sidelines chatting– just the two of us– for hours. I was in Heaven. She was so kind, 23 to my 14, yet treated me as a friend and not just some nutty teenage fan. For some reason or other, Patty got a real kick out of my dad and called him “Al Posner” rather than just Al or Mr. Posner. They really hit it off. Before I knew it, we were invited to her apartment for a party a few weeks later– it just happened to fall on my 15th birthday. Arriving at the party, I was taken by Patty’s friendliness and insistence that I get out and dance with her and her friends. Once again I was in Heaven. The day was made complete when she, Patty Duke, sang “Happy Birthday” to little old me in front of everyone there. I felt like a celebrity.
Those experiences came flooding back when I was invited to the SSA press conference. You can bet I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. After Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, introduced the cast members of The Patty Duke Show, he explained their roles in helping spread the word through their new PSAs featuring information about Social Security’s newest online service– an application for Medicare benefits. It was so much fun seeing the first screening of the new TV spots. I can hardly wait to see them on television. Especially rewarding was my chance to meet Paul and Eddie and to reconnect with Patty. After the press conference I reintroduced myself to her. She said she remembered the baseball game and the party we both attended so many years ago. It was a beautiful reunion for me. She signed two items of mine for me– an old black-and-white lobby card from The Miracle Worker that I had bought at an auction more than a decade ago (bearing Anne Bancroft’s autograph) as well as a copy of her autobiography Call Me Anna. What a fabulous experience. Patty and I hugged, Steve took a picture of the two of us, and that was that. We then headed back to the office to begin our daily routine. She has my card and I have hers. I hope to stay in touch.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t explain more about the purpose for the press conference, a most informative gathering– read below for details from the SSA’s post-event press release:
This new online application, which takes less than 10 minutes to complete, is for people reaching the Medicare eligibility age of 65 who want to delay filing for Social Security retirement benefits. Currently about a half million Americans enroll in Medicare each year without applying for monthly benefits. “Social Security’s online services are the best in all of government and exceed the top private sector companies in customer satisfaction,” Commissioner Astrue said. “The new Medicare application is a welcome addition to our suite of online services and will make it easier than ever to sign up for Medicare. I am thrilled that Patty Duke has once again volunteered to help us get the word out. The fact that this time her TV family has joined her makes this even more special and I thank [them] for service to America. I also want to thank Dr. David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner, who appeared with Patty as a befuddled family physician in some of our spots.” To apply online for Medicare, go to www.socialsecurity.gov and choose Retirement/Medicare under the header, “Select Below To Apply For.” You will be asked a brief series of questions. If you have a question or need additional information, there are convenient “more info” links. When you’re done, just select the “Sign Now” button to submit the application. There are no paper forms to sign, and usually no additional documents are required. If more information is needed, Social Security will contact you by phone or letter. For a variety of reasons, more and more Americans are choosing to delay receiving Social Security retirement benefits past the Medicare eligibility age of 65. Although the age to collect full retirement benefits used to be age 65, it is now age 66 for individuals just becoming eligible for retirement benefits and will eventually become age 67. Benefits can be increased by up to 32 percent if someone delays receiving them until age 70. To learn more, see our When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits fact sheet at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147.html. ”We are continuing to look for ways to improve our existing online services and to add new services that make it easy for people to do business with Social Security,” said Commissioner Astrue. “Later this year, we will make our online Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator available in Spanish, a first for the federal government. Providing the public with the best online services in the government and private sectors is one of our top priorities.” To see all of Social Security’s online services, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. To view the new public service announcements featuring the cast of The Patty Duke Show, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.