The story of C. W. Johnson, the AIDS victim whose overdue disability check arrived as he was being buried in North Carolina {front page, Jan. 4}, did not surprise me. I am sure there are thousands of similar stories with varying degrees of severity that could be told.

My wife, for instance, has had all her claims for Medicare payments during the past year denied for the same stated reason: You did not have Part B of the Medicare reimbursement form when you received the service. Yet she has been paying for Part B since 1986.

Calls and letters fall on deaf ears. It's the wrong department, the wrong office, the wrong person whom we have contacted. In other words, ''It's not my job.'' Threading one's way through the bureaucratic maze between Social Security and Medicare requires a resilience and tenacity most older people no longer have.

One sympathetic woman at Social Security was concerned enough to try to correct the obvious error. She concluded that the misspelling of the last name (omission of an ''e'') on my wife's Social Security card was the key. The woman said she would immediately apply for a new card for my wife but warned that it would take four weeks to process. Sure enough, a month later a new card arrived -- with the name misspelled in exactly the same manner as before.

Social Security Commissioner Gwendolyn S. King's claim that Mr. Johnson's case was just one of those ''nightmarish situations where if something could go wrong, it did,'' probably evoked hollow laughter in many households. I know it did in ours. JIM DEVENEY Hyattsville