When Retired Doesn’t Mean Retired


So, I have been “medically” retired. I am now Michael Smith Prison Officer (retired). But I’m not. Not really. My medical retirement pension is on a lower tier which means two things: 1) I’ll get the pension until I shuffle off this mortal coil and 2) It is a damned small amount.

Not enough to live on and the amounts of benefit I am eligible for are very small and not at all certain. I am eligible for a lump sum, but taking that will drop my yearly pension payment by well over 1500 pounds per year. I also have a slight financial problem that is not going to go away and if I take the lump sum, my situation being what it is, said lump sum will disappear into my creditors’ pockets.

Dear me!

I have gone and spoken to the “not-so-helpful” folks at the Citizen’s Advise Bureau (admittedly it was not their fault, it was my circumstances) and found that I seemed to fall into a giant crack where no real benefits actually applied. I cannot get any of my state pension as a “top-up” as I am under even the earliest age where you can retire. I have a feeling that I will get the same response from the American Social Security folks.

I have often used the phrase “between a rock and a hard place” and each time I used that phrase I honestly felt that I was “in” that metaphorical place. It is amazing how naive we can be in our lives. I now truly understand what that phrase really means; I have only now come to realise that my lack of understanding was normal and I am now in that place.

I have always been a flexible chap, not exceedingly so, but flexible nonetheless. I always knew that I could bounce back from almost anything and I could usually turn my hand at anything.

But now?

I am completely utterly lost.

The one problem with my current circumstance is the heart problem. Because of the condition of my aortic tear, my local cardiologist won’t even assess my fitness for cardio rehabilitation. Not until I’ve had my second follow-on appointment with my surgeon in February. So I have no idea what I can or cannot do in the area of work. I do know I cannot do my old job in the prison service because I cannot have any contact with prisoners; hence my medical retirement.

But the heart problem aside, I don’t even have a CV (resume) on file to apply for work. I have not had a CV for ten years. My last “game plan” was to retire from the Prison Service. We all know how that turned out.

I have learned to my consternation that being medically retired is not the same as being retired. In fact, if you look at it from the benefit point of view, I’m not. I don’t know about the disabled side as I cannot really fill in any forms or get a straight answer until I get my medical retirement paperwork and monies finalized. That will not happen for at least six weeks.

Theoretically, I now have six weeks to get things sorted out, but that is not likely to happen, either. I have discovered that you cannot plan for benefits or income support. I also don’t know if I will get my next pay packet as promised so that I can pay for another month’s rent or even eat. I will be able to contact the financial folks who were helping me to sort my finances but since I’ve no longer got a job, will have to cease ( I suspect) their efforts on my behalf.

I now have to “update” my CV (which of course means writing from scratch) and tailor it to meet the latest CV requirements. I have already look to see what jobs I might be qualified for (not a lot) and who might be interested in hiring a 54 year-old ex-prison officer with a dodgy aorta.

I would consider busking (that quaint English custom on standing on street corners and singing or dancing for coins from the general public) but I don’t think my voice is in fine form and the dancing could be dangerous to my heath; not to mention my inherent lack of coordination in relation to dancing. I briefly considered applying to Tesco as a shelf stocker but I’m not sure they’d have me.

My YouTube channel has not even made enough to warrant a payment yet; there is a threshold of 60 pounds that I am miles away from. I have held onto a “deliver pamphlets” job advert where I could, according to the advert, make up to 500 pounds a week. I am not sure how many pamphlets I would have to deliver for that huge sum of money, but I suspect it is way more than I could deliver in my current state of healing.

But I will continue to look on the bright side. Any other alternative point of view is just not going to happen. As one wise man once said, “You’ve got to laugh, ain’t you? Otherwise you’d cry.”

So as another wise man once said, “Laugh? I nearly paid my television license.” I know, it’s something of a “local” saying, but strangely appropriate.

So I’ll leave you with this little fact: Retired doesn’t really mean retired when it is a medical retirement; at least in this country and if you are under the age of 55. I hope this proves to be helpful to someone who may be facing a similar situation. If not, they say that misery loves company and I have lots of room here in the space between a rock and a hard place; so welcome to my little world.

I’ll put some coffee on and get the cards; I’ll deal.

5 card stud anyone?

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

10 thoughts on “When Retired Doesn’t Mean Retired”

  1. As someone in a similar situation, although without major medical issues and possessing an up to date resume, I sympathise with you and hope to God that Marilyn’s advice works for you. I hate to see anyone in a seemingly no-win situation like that.


      1. You WILL get the money, but it does take time. The wheels grind slowly, unfortunately. It took me 9 months and that was fast. The fastest I’ve ever heard was 6 months. It may go faster because you will work through the consulate and the paperwork may get pushed through more quickly, especially if you can get a sympathetic ear from someone. ALSO, even though you haven’t lived in the States for a long time, wherever you are registered to vote, you actually can call on whoever is your congressman from wherever you orginate. I know tht sounds weird, but I’d been living in Israel for 5 or 6 years when I needed help and my congressman stepped right up to the plate and bingo, problem was fixed. It turns out, they ARE good for something … and they have aides that take care of Americans living abroad. It’s their specialty. Again, the consulate (and your computer) can tell you who your congressman (not senator, they’re too important to help) is and how to get in touch. They all have email and usually respond very quickly. But get started quickly: time is a’wasting.


  2. You ARE entitled to Disability from social security, not social security retirement. You will have to fill out a lot of forms. How much you get depends on how many years and how much you paid in to the system, but it will amount to whatever you would have gotten at age 65: the maximum you could expect. Been there and done this.

    Many people get help from lawyers to collect this, but you don’t actually need that and they take a big piece of the settlement for doing what you can do yourself. You are a writer: WRITE. You need to state your case as thoroughly as possible emphasizing the pathos. You will need statements from appropriate doctors and they may send you to doctors to whom you will tell your story (crying never hurts). As a former thespian, consider this the performance of a lifetime. It’s not hard because, you see, it’s the truth … but this isn’t the time to display stiff upper lip. This is the time to show passion, depth of feeling, ad nauseum.

    Get ye to the American consulate and explain the situation. They will get you the forms or tell you how and where to get them online. You will probably deliver them to the consulate for transfer to the States (the consulate is a very useful place).

    SSA rejects everyone on the first round. After the first rejection, re-apply (they tell you how). THIS is where your writing ability comes seriously into play … go for the Oscar. It won’t be hard since your life does hang in the balance and that makes it all the more touching. Make em cry, babe. If you are sufficiently articulate (you are, I was), you’ll eventually (I got mine after the second re-application … less skilled writers may take longer, but I bet you get it first or second round) get whatever your contributions entitled you to. When you turn 65, it will become “regular” social security but otherwise, it will be the same. If you were here, you’d get Medicare after two years, but you’ve got medical care so that’s not your issue.

    I’ve been on it since 2004. I was 57. Apply soon. When you get it (about 6 to 9 months all told), you will also get back money through when you originally applied. That lump sum is a life saver and does not impact the rest of the money you get. You aren’t applying for retirement. You are applying for disability and being overseas doesn’t matter: a lot of Americans living overseas get SS disabiltiy and/or reitrement. They sometimes live other places (like Corsica) because the money goes further, but that’s not practical if you need medical care.

    Consider bankruptcy. I don’t know what the laws are there, but if you have no money and you do have debts you can’t ever pay, it beats out being harrassed to death by creditors (rhymes with predators). In all of this, I really have been there and I have done this.

    If you haven’t put much into the system, you won’t get much out, but you may discover you’ve put in more than you think. You need to talk to someone who can do the calculations, that is, someone at the consulate. Go USA!


    1. I forgot to mention that one of the good things about being in the USAF for as over 13 years is that my SSN contributions are all paid up and I get little statement from them occasionally telling me how much I’d receive now. I’ve also checked out the Embassy’s on-line information and now know who I need to contact. Thanks again, for the practical support Marilyn! Cheers mate!!


      1. I’ve always believed that when people are down, useful information can be much more helpful than sympathy. Generally speaking, people who are in need of money would rather have a check 🙂 SS disability saved my life. Literally. With a little luck, maybe it’ll save yours, too.


      2. Yes, money is always helpful, especially when the little bit you’ve got looks to be going south for the winter and not returning. Thanks again for the helpful information! 😀


  3. A frustrating situation to be in and as I’ve stated before I really hope you will manage to find a solution to it all. Good luck with writing a CV and I hope you’ll find a fitting job.


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