Why Gao Did This Study
In 2020, SSA provided benefits to nearly 70 million individuals. Under the CARES Act, SSA received $300 million to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor federal efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO was also asked to review SSAs response.
This report examines changes SSA made to its delivery of key services the effect of these changes on the public, including certain vulnerable populations and how SSA addressed challenges it faced and identified lessons learned. GAO analyzed summary and administrative SSA data from March 2018 to December 2021, and reviewed the agencys plans, policies, and guidance documents. GAO also conducted group interviews with SSA staff at various levels and offices and interviewed SSA officials and external stakeholders, including disability advocates and employee groups.
Senator Collins Urges Social Security Administration To Immediately Reopen Field Offices
Washington, D.C.U.S. Senator Susan Collins wrote to Social Security Administration Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi to urge her to immediately reopen the SSAs field offices that have been closed for more than two years. In January, the SSA indicated that it was planning reentry of its teleworkers on March 30 and anticipating that field offices would resume in-person services to the public in early April. However, the agency has still not provided a specific date in April that the field offices will reopen to the public.
It has now been two full years since the SSA suspended in-person services because of the COVID-19 pandemic,Senator Collins wrote. While the SSA reportedly submitted its reentry plan to the Office of Management and Budget in July 2021, it has still failed to fully reopen its offices to the public. The resulting disruptions to millions of Social Security beneficiaries are especially difficult for individuals and seniors in rural areas who do not have reliable telephone or Internet access and experience mail backlogs and delays in receiving benefit payments.
How To Find The Social Security Administration Office Nearest To You
If you dont already know the address of your local social security office you can find this information on the Social Security Administrations website at www.ssa.gov
Steps to follow:
- At the top right-hand corner of the website you need to click Menu.
- On the left of the menu you click Contact Us.
- On this page, click on the Find an Office link.
- You then need to type in your zip code.
The zip code you have typed will provide the local address for your social security office, opening hours, telephone number, toll-free number, and driving directions to reach the office.
If you dont wish to file your application for benefits online, or for any reason you would like to speak to an agent, you can call the following number to schedule, alter, or cancel an appointment by: 1-800-772-1213 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.
How to Get Help With Your Claim
The SSAs website atwww.ssa.gov provides useful information to help you with your claim.
However, if you are unable to find the help you need from the website, call yourlocal Social Security office or the national 800 number from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. local time. If you are able to call the National 800 Number between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time, you can expect a quicker response.
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Are Social Security Offices Open
On March 17, 2020, the Social Security Administration closed all its offices to the public for in-person services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For those who were accustomed to receiving face-to-face service to address issues with or questions about their benefits, this has been a massive shift in how they interact with the federal agency.
More than one year later, the pandemic is officially still ongoing but the strict lockdowns and business closures that we saw last spring have eased considerably. With restaurants and retail stores operating mostly as normal, you might wonder, are Social Security offices open too?
The questions Im starting to hear now are along the lines of, Are Social Security offices open for any services? But maybe the one we should really be asking is more like, When will Social Security offices open again?
If you were eager to communicate in person with the SSA, you may need to wait a little while longer still. Social Security offices generally remain closed as of May 2021 but there may be a few circumstances that allow for in-person service.
Are Social Security Offices Open for Any Services?
There are a few limited cases where you may be able to schedule a one-on-one meeting at your local Social Security Administration office. These meetings are by appointment only, and appointments are only granted in critical circumstances.
Appointments are generally granted if:
Budget Crunch And Backlogs
Most retirement and Medicare claims have been processed normally during the shutdown, but the systems for SSDI and SSI claims have been clogged. At the end of January, 974,000 claims were pending at the level of initial filing and the first level of appeal, according to agency data.
Those statistics point to dire circumstances for a large number of low-income and disabled Americans, notes Stacy Cloyd, director of policy and administrative advocacy for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives, a specialized bar association for attorneys and advocates.
People are dying waiting for decisions, going into debt, or theyre unable to access medical care she said.
Part of the problem is application processing delays at the state level. The SSA sends disability applications to state agencies, which make medical determinations of eligibility. The largest backlog is in Florida, which had 92,525 cases awaiting determination at the end of January Texas, California, New York state and Georgia also had large backlogs, according to agency data.
The SSA funds these state-level determinations, so the agencys broader budget crunch has played a role in the backlogs, according to Cloyd.
The SSA and unions representing the agencys nearly 60,000 workers have been negotiating terms of the reopening since last fall. Labor representatives charge that the agency lacks a detailed plan for handling the expected crush of visitors.
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Are Social Security Offices Open On Veterans Day
If you need to conduct Social Security business on Veterans Day, you have a couple of options but they dont include visiting field offices.
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Social Security offices will be closed on Veterans Day, which is one of 11 federal holidays recognized by the agency. Telephone services that require live representatives might also be unavailable. Check the SSA.gov website to see if telephone service is available in your region on Veterans Day.
Your best option is to visit the Social Security Administrations mySocialSecurity portal, which lets you apply for and manage all of your Social Security benefits online. As GOBankingRates reported last week, you can sign up for the account free of charge and access personalized tools you can use even if you dont currently receive benefits. The account lets you request a replacement Social Security benefits card, check the status of an existing application, estimate how many future benefits youll receive or manage those you already get.
The closure of field offices shouldnt disrupt the lives of too many Americans, however, considering that offices have been closed to all but special appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic. As GOBankingRates previously reported, Social Security offices have traditionally been open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. But that changed in March 2020, during the early days of the pandemic.
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Are Social Security Offices Open On Black Friday
Its rare that a shopping holiday influences office closures outside its industry, but you cant underestimate the power and allure of Black Friday. While shoppers will be in retail heaven on Nov. 25, those requiring the services of the Social Security Administration in person will be out of luck.
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Although it is not listed as one of the 11 federal holidays on which its offices are closed , Social Security offices will not be open on Black Friday.
The only Social Security offices open on Black Friday will be those holding in-person hearings. So, if you have a pending appeal hearing scheduled for Nov. 25 in person, it is still happening.
However, as the SSA notes, its never been easier to do business with them online. Plenty of questions about retirement, disability, SSI and Medicare benefits can be answered online through a clients my Social Security account and on the SSA website and the Social Security Matters blog.
Signing up for my Social Security account will open immediate and convenient access to important information and resources about your retirement benefits, whether you are planning for your future or managing your present benefits.
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Information About Ssa’s Hearings And Appeals Operations
The Office of Hearings Operations and the Office of Analytics, Review, and Oversight are responsible for holding hearings, issuing decisions, and reviewing post-hearing appeals for claims filed under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, as amended. Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland, these components make up one of the largest administrative adjudication systems in the world.
OHO directs a nationwide field organization of administrative law judges who conduct impartial “de novo” hearings and make decisions on appealed determinations involving retirement, survivors, disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. Through its Appeals Council in the Office of Appellate Operations, OARO reviews ALJ decisions on appeal by claimants, or on its own motion, and processes cases appealed to federal court. The Deputy Commissioners for OHO and OARO are the agency officials responsible for administration of this enormous adjudicative system.
OHO and OARO have two case processing/adjudication components that are headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia – the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge and the Office of Appellate Operations.
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Theres Good Reason For Social Security Offices To Open Asap
That being said, reopening Social Security offices as soon as possible needs to be considered a priority. While services are available via the phone, that doesnt help much unless you have a good computer with a strong internet connection in your own home.
The continued closure of Social Security offices under most circumstances does present a major challenge to the hundreds of thousands of individuals who may lack access to a computer, internet connection, or dont have a reliable phone number or mailing address.
The decreased lack of access to the local SSA offices has been blamed for the decrease in Social Security benefits applications. Since the closure of offices, newly awarded SSI applications are down 30%.
Critics of the SSA office closures say that this is a sign of a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable population: those with low income and disabilities.
When Will Social Security Offices Open Again?
Unfortunately, the real answer to When will Social Security offices open again? may be never, at least in some cases. A permanent closing of most of these offices could be the eventual outcome, even as the pandemic fades into the rearview mirror.
This could become even more likely if a proposal from one of the big Social Security employees unions gets their way.
Social Security Office Closures Cause Headaches For San Jose Residents
While California lifted most of its coronavirus restrictions in June allowing for increased capacity indoors, Social Security Administration offices remain closed for walk-ins indefinitely.
In March 2020, the administration closed its offices as a preventive measure to stop the spread of COVID-19. Since then, the agency doubled down its online and phone services to support most requests. However, the offices havent been able to efficiently cover demand.
In the 2020-21 fiscal year, COVID measures implemented in field offices slowed down work productivity by 20%, according to a letter to Congress by Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.
We are working diligently to address these challenges, but the abrupt changes to the way we do our work has caused bottlenecks in certain workloads and service deterioration beyond our control, Saul wrote.
That impact on services is surfacing in San Jose.
Amy, a San Jose resident who asked not to share her last name for privacy reasons, has a 15-year-old son with autism who received supplemental security income for years.
But in January, they stopped receiving SSI without notice.
Amy filed an online appeal and called the national phone line multiple times, only to be told someone from her local office would call her. The call never came.
There are folks who cant understand computers, Fitzgerald said. They need someone in the office, physically, to help them.
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I Want To Sign Up For Only Part A Or Both Part A & Part B
Once youre eligible to sign up for Medicare , you have 2 options:
Once you sign up , youll get a welcome package with your Medicare card.
Social Security Office Hours
Hours are mostly standardized across the various Social Security offices nationwide. However it is highly recommended to contact your local office to confirm hours and set an appointment.
Please note that offices close on Wednesdays at noon instead of 4:00 PM. Offices are closed over the weekend. The suggested time to visit the offices is later in the week as they are less busy. Numerous services can be completed online, so please only visit your local office if you must.
All Social Security offices will be closed on the following federal holidays.
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When Waiting Isnt The Best Option
These numbers dont lie. There truly is a significant cost associated with beginning to receive Social Security benefits before age 70 for many Americans. However, are there cases where waiting to claim benefits isnt the best financial option? Absolutely.
Probably the best reason to take Social Security at age 62 is if you face serious health issues. Any analysis of when to file for benefits should include life expectancy.
The Social Security Administrations actuarial tables project that the average male who reaches age 62 will live another 20 years. These tables estimate that the average 62-year-old female will live another 23 years. If your health conditions make it likely that your life expectancy will be shorter than these projections, claiming Social Security retirement benefits early could be a good idea.
Some wealthier individuals dont need Social Security checks to live a comfortable lifestyle during their retirement years. They could nonetheless begin receiving benefits before their full retirement age and invest the money. Its possible that their investment returns could be greater than the amount they would have made by waiting to receive Social Security benefits.
Of course, some people are willing to accept the negative financial consequences of claiming Social Security benefits early. They believe that the advantages of retiring early are worth the price that they pay.
Social Security Offices Open Their Doors For In
After more than two years of being largely closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic, the nations more than 1,200 Social Security Administration field offices reopened today.
Still, Social Security officials encourage people with phone and internet access to use those methods of contact if possible.
Customers who walk in without appointments may encounter delays and longer waits at our offices, the agency said in a written statement earlier this week.
In-person visitors will be required to wear masks, in addition to other safety precautions.
Many advocates have said they anticipate the lengthy closures, combined with the agencys staffing challenges and continued technical problems with phone systems, could lead to long lines for service, though none were visible at several Pittsburgh-area offices Thursday morning.
Advocates and attorneys have said they are sensitive to the safety concerns of reopening, but that the closed offices had posed a hardship for some people, particularly those applying for the disability benefits that are part of the Social Security program.
It was incredibly difficult for our clients, many of whom rely on the local offices to get help with their applications, to do updates on their applications, to deal with overpayment issues, everything. So, it a huge hurdle for our clients, said Jennifer Modell, an attorney specializing in Social Security cases at Neighborhood Legal Services in Pittsburgh.
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