Originally created 08/25/04

Letters warn of license trouble



ATLANTA - A Rose by any other name is going to be a problem.

That's the stance of government agencies trying to square up identities in Georgia, in part to help track down parents not paying child support.The state Department of Motor Vehicle Safety and the U.S. Social Security Administration are cross-checking their records and advising those people whose names or Social Security numbers don't match up to fix the discrepancy or risk having their driver's license canceled.

The DMVS is mailing out letters to affected license holders, explaining what to do so that both agencies have the same information.

The remedy could be as simple as sending the letter back to the DMVS with an update or corrected typo, said DMVS spokeswoman Susan Sports.

"If the numbers are different, it could be a more complicated problem," she said, adding that some people might have to take their birth certificate to a local Social Security field office. "A lot of times it will be the name that would create a mismatch."

Ms. Sports said it was unclear how many Georgia residents could be affected by the agencies' record check since it is an ongoing effort.A middle initial or nickname could prompt the letter, which also states that the license holders have 60 days to fix the problem.

Although the effort was targeted toward those avoiding child support, a large number of those being affected are newly married women. Name changes after marriage can create confusion if brides do not go through the process of updating government records with their new surname.

Nearly three months after her wedding day, Atlanta resident Mary Valerio is still going through the bureaucratic steps of phasing out Gray, her maiden name.

Though she has switched with her bank and the DMVS, she still has to contact her credit card companies and the Social Security Administration.

"There's no clear way, not that I've found, to do it except piecemeal," said Mrs. Valerio, who is originally from Savannah. "You sort of do it as it comes up - 'Oh, I haven't done it here.' So you just carry your marriage certificate around."

In May, Augusta residents began receiving DMVS letters advising them to fix problems with their driver's licenses and Social Security cards, said Tommie Aaron, district manager of the Augusta Social Security Office.

Most visit the Social Security office soon after receiving the letter to avoid having problems with their driver's licenses, said Judy Hardy, assistant district manager of the Augusta Social Security Office.

"They're in here," Mrs. Hardy said. "They're panicked."

Since May, the Augusta office has seen its walk-in traffic jump.In addition to the 300 or so customers the office serves each day, 10 to 15 more arrive as a result of DMVS letters, Ms. Aaron said.

On days when new rounds of letters have been mailed out, the office sees at least 25 more people each day.

By early Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. Hardy said 10 people had already visited the office to correct problems between the DMVS and the Social Security office.

But there is a more serious problem than mismatched names spurring change.

Besides cleaning up their books, the state also is using the cross checking to go after unpaid child support, because driver's licenses can be suspended if payments are more than two months late.

"Basically, it was to be able to turn information over to the Department of Human Resources in efforts to catch deadbeat parents," Ms. Sports said.Last year, Human Resources collected $554.2 million in child support, according to the department's Office of Child Support Enforcement, which helps custodial parents collect overdue money from paychecks and tax checks from the other parent.

But the state's caseload is overwhelmed with going after nonpaying parents, and any effort by the DMVS to pin them down would help lagging collections, said Vicky Kimbrell, an attorney with Georgia Legal Services.

"They can choose identities that don't match, but just about everybody has a driver's license," she said. "We certainly support anything that's going to help."

Staff writer Kate Lewis contributed to this story.Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (404) 589-8424 or vicky.eckenrode@morris.com.

HELLO, MY NAME IS ...

Changing a name either because of marriage, divorce or a whim requires several steps for the government to recognize your new identity.

  • If assuming a new name after getting married, request several copies of your marriage license, which are necessary for proof of the name change.

  • Change the records at your local Social Security Administration office. To find the closest one, visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call (800) 772-1213. Your Social Security number will stay the same, but the agency will issue you a new card. They also will automatically forward the information to the Internal Revenue Service.

  • Change your driver's license and information with the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety. To locate a local branch, visit www.dmvs.ga.gov.

  • Don't forget about financial records, passports, voter registration and auto registration.
    Source: theknot.com, Internal Revenue Service