For years, Wanda Witter has lived on the streets in Washington, D.C., trying to persuade officials that Social Security owes her more than $100,000. For years, the 80-year-old woman says people dismissed her as crazy.
But finally someone listened — and now, her attorney says, she’s about to get a $99,999 payout.
Witter moved to the District of Columbia in 1999 to seek work after losing her job as a machinist in New York years earlier, according to the Washington Post.
But even though Witter had earned a paralegal certificate to prepare for a new career, she remained jobless. In 2006, she decided to draw Social Security benefits. However, the monthly checks varied wildly, from $900 to $300. Believing the checks were wrong, Witter didn’t cash them and sought help.
If I just cashed them, who would believe me that they were wrong?
“If I just cashed them, who would believe me that they were wrong?” Witter said.
She remained homeless, bedding down on the concrete in a sleeping bag. She kept a tower of three suitcases, containing her Social Security paperwork, next to her.
In 2015, social worker Julie Turner listened. Instead of dismissing Witter as crazy, Turner patiently waded through her documents and verified her story.
“She had all the paperwork there, neatly organized, in order. She was right all along. They did owe her all that money,” Turner said.
Turner took Witter to attorney Daniela de la Piedra, who took on her case. In June, a Social Security official finally acknowledged Witter’s case and wrote her a $999 check — the most that could be written on the spot. Last week, Witter received her first full payment — $1,464.
Witter should receive a $99,999 Social Security check “in the next few days,” De la Piedra said. Once all the paperwork is taken care of, the lawyer said it’s possible Witter may be owed even more.
On Aug. 16, Witter moved into a studio apartment on Capitol Hill.
Social Security officials have declined to comment.