Yes, Social Security Administration offices are still closed. Published by Jane the Actuary View all posts by Jane the Actuary
6 thoughts on “Forbes post, “The Continued Closure Of Social Security Offices Exposes Serious Administrative Failings””
I’m a retired SSA employee and a member of the Union. You’re wrong about the role of the Union in this matter. AFGE wants offices to reopen in a manner that is as safe as possible for both employees and the public, many of whom, due to age and infirmity, are high risk. The Union understands that while many Social Security matters can be handled to completion by remote workers (using telephone, computer and mail systems), there are members of the public we swore to serve that need in-person service to protect their rights. But safely opening the District Offices would include sanitizing office areas, inspecting and retrofitting air control systems, vaccination and mask mandates. The Agency does not seem to want to bargain in good faith or with alacrity.
The telework controversy is just a diversion. The agency plans to maximize telework for ALL of its employees EXCEPT field office employees – regardless of the Union’s position. The notion that somehow the Union is dragging their feet is unfounded.
SSA announced to the public that they would re-open entirely 01/03/22 and then told the Union that they would bargain and that they (the agency reps) knew full well the 01/03 date was NOT realistic.
In MOST offices, field office employees are already going back into the office for part of the week and the public is being seen face-to-face by appointment via expediated interviews.
The real issue here is a resource issue. Field Offices are understaffed. At this point EVERYONE who is answering calls – from clericals to managers. Remember, these field offices are not meant to be call centers – their first job is taking claims and conducting programmatic stewardship.
YES – they can print a benefit verification letter or log an address change or help you file for a replacement social security card – but all those calls coming in every day on the general inquiry line keeps these field office workers from doing the detailed, complex and time-consuming work of processing claims for benefits.
In other words, if everyone is being used as a phone rep then claims work is NOT getting done, when claims work doesn’t get done even more frustrated citizens call in to follow up on their overdue claims.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Often, a small office with 15 to 20 employees will get more than 300 calls per day. This is in addition to the six or so appointments a claims rep typically has per day (helping people file for benefits) and in addition to all the work coming in via the mail.
In short, it doesn’t matter if field office employees are teleworking or in the office. The problem is NOT enough workers.
And, when you start field office reps as a GS5s (about $16 or $17/hr) it sure is hard to hire folks smart enough to do the job who are also willing to take the abuse.
I went thru hell with SSA between Dec 2021 & March 2022. I reapplied for Extra Help in Dec & didn’t hear anything until Feb 2022 when they told me I had too many resources – $20,000 in bank. I.had no such thing. Local Poughkeepsie NY OFFICE closed, no one ans phone, no answering machine. Couldn’t fill my scripts. Sent local office certif letter return receipt. Came back with straight horizontal line where signature should be. Had applied for a hearing before a judge. Someone finally called me & said they were acting in place of the judge. Turned out the 20,000 was what I had gotten from unemployment for 2020 and their system took it off my tax form and substituted the $20,000 in the space where I had written there was $1,115.00 in my checking acct. As soon as the woman spoke to me, the next day the problem was fixed. No one at SSA toll free# could or would help me. They treated me Ike I was a criminal and 1 woman refused to give me a hearing date because they were booking out too far and hung up on me. A nightmarish situation that I fear will happen again when I file my 2021 return because there is unemployment compensation on there as well.