Thursday, March 30, 2006

Retired fireman's identity mired in 40-year-old fudge

Retired fireman's identity mired in 40-year-old fudge:

"Cattorini has managed to run afoul of one of our new federal anti-terrorism laws, the Real ID Act, which has him real frustrated -- so frustrated that he called me.

In one respect, as you will see, Cattorini is a victim of a bureaucratic snafu that he correctly surmises must be affecting many other people these days. In another respect, though, the problem is of his own making.

Either way, it's a cautionary tale worth telling.

For Cattorini, the problem started Jan. 3 when he went to an Illinois Secretary of State facility to renew his driver's license, which was due to expire on his birthday, Jan. 17.

When he finally got to the head of the line and submitted his paperwork, Cattorini learned there was a problem: He could not renew his driver's license because there was a discrepancy between the year of birth listed on his license, 1944, and the year of birth on file with the Social Security Administration, 1943.

Now on an expired license

Since the beginning of this year, he would learn, the Secretary of State's office has been crosschecking driver's license data with Social Security records to verify their accuracy. It's part of this federal Real ID Act, which is supposed to improve national security by requiring states to verify the information submitted by driver's license applicants.

Cattorini says his actual birth date was in 1944, which meant he would have to go to the Social Security Administration to clear up the error. He headed there the next day with a copy of his official birth certificate, which he'd picked up from the Cook County Clerk's office.

At Social Security, he was told his birth records would have to be verified before the agency's records could be changed. As I say, that was the beginning of January, and Cattorini is still awaiting a resolution.

What seemed almost amusing at first has become a constant aggravation. He now has been driving on an expired license for two months, which has him jumpy.

'I'm paranoid now, every time I'm driving. If I get stopped by a cop, I'm going to jail,' he told me. 'My whole life is in limbo.'"

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