Boy denied social security card due to complications with long Hawaiian namePosted: Updated:
Keola and Nicole Akana said they were dumbfounded when the Social Security office denied their application for a replacement Social Security card for their son because of his long last name.
They were told the identity of their 9-year-old son could not be verified because his first name, Kauapakanuiokeola, was not on his school ID.
“It’s difficult for Hawaiians to be Hawaiian in Hawaii," Keola Akana said.
The Akanas had all the necessary paperwork, but their application for a new Social Security card for their son was still denied.
There are four things that a person needs to prove to get a Social Security card for their child: parents need to prove their identity, the child’s citizenship, the child’s age, and the child’s identity.
A school ID is listed as one of the acceptable forms of identification on the Social Security form, so that’s what they brought.
“She looks at the school ID,” Akana said, “and denies my application because he doesn’t have ellipses at the end of his name. [The school] couldn’t put the whole name on [the ID], so they put Kauapaka, and she says she couldn’t positively identify my son.”
The Social Security office told the Akanas they would need to bring a certified letter from his school principal to verify his identity.
“For a person behind a counter to tell me I would have to go to a school to get a documentation to tell me that’s my son,” Akana said. “That’s kind of a slap in my face.”
Their son is named after his great-grandfather, nine generations back. Kauapakanuiokeola means “the great sounding rain of life.”
Kaliko Baker from the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii at Manoa explained why names are so important in Hawaiian culture.
“Given the kinds of names that we have and how they carry significant cultural knowledge with them,” Baker said, “they are one of those last few things that we can hold on to really stay connected to who we are as the aboriginal people of these islands.”
The frustration runs much deeper than a simple application being rejected.
“It hurts them,” Baker said. “I think to be denied, it’s almost like their son’s existence is being denied by the government.”
Although Kauapakanuiokeola Akana’s Social Security application was denied, his application for a passport was approved. Once he receives his passport, his parents can take him to get his Social Security card.
A spokesperson for the Social Security Administration said they are unable to release any details on this specific case due to privacy laws.
The Akanas are hoping some resolution can be made in the application process for government forms that will help other Hawaiian families facing the same issue because they know they are not alone.