A homeless woman spent more than a decade proving Social Security owed her $100,000 — she was right

Explaing How Social Security Works

The story of 80-year-old Wanda Witter is unlike anything you've seen before.

Witter has been living homeless with documents stuffed in suitcases trying to convince people she isn't crazy for more than a decade and that the government owes her $100,000 in Social Security money.

Witter, divorced and a mother of four who once worked as a machinist, said people always thought she was crazy for insisting an error was made in her Social Security payouts. She walked around the streets of Washington, D.C., for more than a decade to prove it.

"They kept thinking I was crazy, telling me to get rid of the suitcases," she said. "I knew, when I committed to homelessness, I had to be very careful about what I did. 'Don't do anything stupid,' I told myself. Because they'll think I'm a mental case."

RELATED: She went to the Social Security office and learned that the government thinks she's dead

According to a lengthy piece on Witter's life by The Washington Post, a social worker named Julie Turner, 56, took the time to listen to the woman's story and eventually learned that she was right.

Turner, an employee at Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said that Witter had all over her paperwork in order and was right.

"She had all the paperwork there, neatly organized, in order. She was right all along. They did owe her all that money," she said.

"She needed economic help, not mental help," she added. "That's part of the problem with homelessness in D.C. So many cases are written off as being about mental illness. A lot of times, homelessness really is simply about economics."

RELATED: How to get the maximum Social Security check

Witter has since gotten a lawyer who specializes in Social Security disputes and anticipates a check for $99,999 in the next few days — and she might be owed more.

But how did Witter know something was wrong?

The Washington Post explained that varying check amounts starting in 2006 led Witter to void the checks she received rather than cashing them.

Meanwhile, the Social Security benefits Witter finally decided to draw in 2006 were all over the place. The amounts ranged from $900 to $300 a month, Witter said. And she wanted to know why. She called the agency and asked. No one had an answer.

Sick of the imprecision, she wrote "Void" across the payments and mailed them back, refusing to cash checks that she knew weren't right.

Most folks running low on cash would have deposited those checks. But Witter is stubborn.

"If I just cashed them, who would believe me that they were wrong?" she explained.

While her lawyer assures her that the money she's owed is going to keep coming, like a good skeptic, Witter is saying, 'I'll believe it when I see it.'

"You never know that the next check will come," she said. "I don't believe it."

Despite enduring an assault two weeks ago that resulted in a black eye and required stitches to repair, Witter now has a place to live, thanks to Julie Turner's help.

Turner found Witter a studio apartment that costs $500 a month.

Last week, Witter got her first full payment of $1,464.

RELATED: Things you've probably said while filing taxes:

10 things we've all said while filing our taxes
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10 things we've all said while filing our taxes

"It's only January, I have plenty of time!"
You're relaxed, you're casual, what even are taxes anyway? You don't care! It's so far away that filing taxes isn't even remotely on your radar, to be honest.

Photo credit: Getty

"The imminent act of filing is upon me and I literally have nothing ready..."
Tax season is now approaching and that creeping anxiety about getting everything done on time is starting to set in. It's essentially biting at your heels and you know you have to get moving.

Photo credit: Getty

No words. Just emotional paralysis.
You're screwed. You need to start doing your paperwork but you physically do not know where to even begin. It's time. It's happening.

Photo credit: Getty

That anxiety you felt creeping in earlier? Now it's full-fledged onset. This stage is often accompanied by screaming out loud, pulling hair, crying, etc.

Photo credit: Getty

"Wait, did I get all of my papers in? Did I check that one box correctly? Does it look like I'm trying to evade some of these taxes? What if I go to jail? Can I go to jail for that? WHO WILL FEED MY DOG WHEN I AM IN JAIL?!"

It's like handing in an exam in school and wishing you could grab it back and double check your answers one more time.

Who was that celebrity you heard about that went to jail for tax evasion? Because now you're convinced that's totally going to be you.

Spoiler alert: as long as you did everything to the best of your knowledge and ability, you probably won't go to jail. And even if you do, you'll find someone to walk your dog.

Photo credit: Getty

"I got this, I'm almost done, a few more papers and I'm in the clear. I just have to pound through the rest of it. Go me!"

"Go you" is right! Now you're on cruise control and you're on track to get everything done well and on time. You're unstoppable in the delight of the world that is tax filing.

Photo credit: Getty

"Thank god that's over with, now I can relax! What to do with all this stress-free free time!"
Finally, relief. Your papers are filed and sent out into the universe. It's off your back at last. Now on to more important things, like Netflix.

Photo credit: Getty

"When is my return coming? Is this going to be my life for the rest of my life? Yep, it is. So about that return..."
Now, you wait. You want that money. And the inevitable truth that your life will now be a neverending cycle of filing taxes and waiting for your return.

Photo credit: Getty

"SCORE my return was so much better than I expected! I'm buying a new dress. Or five. Probably five, why not?"
You're on a total life-high now. The possibilities of what you can spend your return on seem endless and even if you don't, having a nice bonus hunk of cash in your pocket feels pretty good. It made all of that stress completely worth it.

Photo credit: Getty

"Honestly filing wasn't even that bad this year. And now I don't have to think about it anymore. Well at least not for another year. But no use in worrying about that now!"
Alas, acceptance. You know you'll fall victim to the vicious cycle again when next year rolls around. But truthfully, you wouldn't have it any other way. Okay, you obviously would. But you'll never change your procrastinating ways!

Photo credit: Getty


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