Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Help Me Howard: Passport Problem
Getting a passport is not easy, but if you are patient, it's not bad. However, one South Florida woman found it not only difficult but suspicious when, she says, they wanted to know her bank account numbers. Why? When she couldn't get an answer she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you walk into Stephanie Jean's room, don't turn on a bright light or all the shiny medals she has won in the Special Olympics will blind you.
Stephanie Jean Craven: "Swimming, track and field, bowling."
Stephanie lives with her mother in Coral Springs along with their animal friends and a talking bird.
Stephanie Jean Craven: "I got one mom sitting out there on 19 eggs."
A few ducks, a squirrel that sits patiently waiting to be fed, and of course lots of fish. A nice life, but when things got boring, Beverly had an idea to take Stephanie where her late husband always wanted to go.
Beverly Jean Craven: "He wanted her to see the islands, so this will make his wish and her dream a reality."
To fly to the islands they needed passports. Beverly applied at Coral Springs City Hall and...
Beverly Jean Craven: "I got mine no problem. I got mine in two weeks, and then I got the letter of refusal on her passport."
This letter said to get a passport Stephanie would have to submit five personal documents, so Beverly called the toll free number to see what to submit.
Beverly Jean Craven: "They ended up telling me, and this was verbal, they needed pay stubs, school histories, history of residence from the time she was born and bank account numbers, and, when it got to the bank accounts, I said this smells. What does the government want bank account numbers for?"
Trying to gather all that for Stephanie is a little difficult since the 34-year-old has led a sheltered life.
Beverly Jean Craven: "She is mentally challenged. She doesn't have the comprehension and the ability up here to do what she needs for a bank account."
To put it politely, Beverly is cautious. To be blunt, she is a little suspicious, wondering if Stephanie is being treated this way because of her condition or if someone is up to something more sinister.
Beverly Jean Craven: "And with all this talk and advertisement about identity theft, I am thinking maybe somewhere along the lines somebody got their hands on some paperwork and are using it to their own benefit."
To make sure the government really needed all the information, she tried to talk to different passport officials, no luck.
Beverly Jean Craven: "So I get nowhere, I am talking to a doorknob, going nowhere."
Getting nowhere and seeing their goal of going somewhere passing away without that passport.
Beverly Jean Craven: "I would just like to have this resolved. I would very much just like to show her the islands."
But with no Passport, no chance of traveling, and she is wondering can the government require different people to submit different forms to get a passport?
Howard Finkelstein: "To ask for someone's bank account information to get a passport is not appropriate, and you can't refuse a passport because of someone's mental condition. Someone misunderstood or is making a mistake because Stephanie is entitled to a passport."
With that cleared up, our next step was to get Stephanie a passport. I called the director of the Miami Passport Agency, Ryan Dooley, and told me, 'Give me five minutes, and I will find out what's wrong.' He called me back and said her paperwork showed nothing about her condition, just that the picture she submitted with her application was fuzzy. He told me, 'Fax me a new picture right now, and I will Fed-Ex her passport at our expense.'
True to his word, Dooley sent out the Passport the very next day.
Beverly Jean Craven: "Now we get to go, yeah, yes, yes, yes."
And now Stephanie is going on a vacation, her late father would have loved to see.
Beverly Jean Craven: "All of this over an unclear photograph. That's all, and nobody would tell me. God bless Patrick Fraser and his group, God bless him."
Patrick Fraser: "Thanks, Beverly, and don't forget, without Ryan Dooley it would not have happened so quickly. By the way, Dooley says you can now get a passport card to carry with you. It's the size of a driver's license and enables you to go on cruises and cross into Canada or Mexico. You can apply at any post office or City Hall, all the normal places you apply for a Passport. Small, convenient, and you can leave your full size passport at home.
Travel trouble tripped you up? Want to a pass to a port? Book us, we don't have any restrictions. We just have solutions that can be picture perfect, unlike us.
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