Frustrated with Social Security customer service? These essential AARP tips can help


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Let’s be honest here: Many Americans weren’t thrilled with the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) customer service options even before COVID-19 created all sorts of headaches. But with wait times rising and thousands of baby boomers retiring every day as part of the Great Resignation, the problem is only getting worse.

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The good news is that there are steps you can take to improve your chances of getting your questions answered — and issues resolved — even as the SSA tries to recover from the pandemic.

The agency was forced to temporarily close its 1,200 field offices as a result of COVID-19, AARP reported. Those offices could reopen this spring, the SSA said in a January press release. One of the results of the closures was that more people were forced to call the SSA rather than come in person, leading to longer wait times and increased frustration.

The SSA has also been affected by budget cuts. As AARP noted, since 2010, the SSA’s operating budget — set annually by Congress — has shrunk by 13 percent and its staff by 12 percent. Meanwhile, the number of Social Security recipients increased 22% over the same period, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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So what can you do if you’re frustrated with SSA customer service? AARP offers these tips:

  1. Call during off-peak hours. Peak times for SSA’s national toll-free number are the first week of the month and when payments are made, usually Wednesdays. It is best to avoid these hours if you wish to call.

  2. Go online whenever possible. The SSA has attempted to make its website (ssa.gov) more comprehensive and user-friendly during the pandemic, which means you can do more things online now than you could in the past. Before calling the agency, first research your questions and issues on the website to see if you can find answers there.

  3. Use other resources. A good place to start is AARP’s Social Security Resource Center, which offers a comprehensive mix of calculators, tools, and articles that can help you navigate your way through various Social Security issues. and retirement. The site also allows you to submit questions to experts. You should also search the web for other non-profit organizations and investment firms that offer helpful information for free.

  4. Hire an expert. If you have the budget, hiring a finance/retirement professional is one way to avoid frustrating SSA calls or queries. This can be particularly useful when deciding when and how to apply for retirement benefits. As AARP notes, not thinking through the details can cost you thousands of dollars in lost benefits. The SSA can help you process your claim, but it is not there to advise you on when and how to file it.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Frustrated with Social Security customer service? These essential AARP tips can help

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