People waiting at Social Security offices face long lines in intense heat


People line up outside a Social Security office in Pasadena, California.

Mario Anzuoni | Reuters

People facing long waits for service at Social Security Administration field offices faced an additional complication this summer — intense heat.

That prompted leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee to send a letter to the Social Security Administration on Tuesday asking the agency to take action to meet the safety needs of people seeking in-person assistance. .

“While most SSA field offices can help visitors, in some places people have been left outside in the heat for hours on end, with no guarantee that their needs will be met,” wrote representatives Richard Neal, D -Mass., and Kevin. Brady, R-Texas, in a letter to Kilolo Kijakazi, acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

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Neal is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, while Brady is the committee’s Republican leader.

The letter detailed the uncomfortable situations that people seeking help had been placed in, citing news reports, including elderly or disabled people waiting more than six hours in temperatures approaching 100 degrees. The conditions led to one person fainting in Texas, lawmakers noted, while other people in Florida slept outside the night before to secure their places in line for the next morning. In some cases, people had to return for several days to have their needs met.

“We strongly urge the SSA to take additional steps to meet the security needs of individuals seeking field office services,” Neal and Brady wrote.

Long wait for service in person, by phone and by mail

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, left, holds a “Simple, Fair ‘Postcard’ Tax Filing” card next to filing member Rep. Richard Neal, D -Mass., during a markup hearing in Washington, DC on November 6, 2017.

Andre Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The field office awaits after the federal agency officially reopens in April after it mostly closed to in-person visits in response to the Covid-19 pandemic beginning in 2020.

Those seeking help also complained of long waits when calling the agency’s 800 phone number. Meanwhile, the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General has also asked the agency to address inefficiencies in mail processing, which has led to delays in processing some applications.

The complaints about long waits come as no surprise to Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, a grassroots advocacy organization, who said he’s heard stories similar to those described in the letter.

The delays can be attributed to a confluence of events going back years, he said. This includes the closure of Social Security field offices, which have now fallen to around 1,200 from over 1,600. The number of people reaching retirement age has increased significantly as the baby boomer population ages . The Covid-19 pandemic has further complicated the challenges facing the Social Security Administration.

“It’s been a real tough toxic soup trying to get a public service from Social Security,” Fiesta said.

The fiscal year 2023 budget requests an additional $1.8 billion over last year’s request, which is specifically aimed at improving field, telephone, and state services for people with Social Security disabilities. .

“It’s positive,” Fiesta said. “We hope Congress will pass it.”

“Plan ahead and do as much research as possible”

Getting fast, reliable service from a program funded by workers’ paychecks should be a no-brainer, Fiesta said.

For now, there are steps people seeking help can take to try to minimize their wait times.

“Plan ahead and do as much research as possible on the questions you’ll have,” Fiesta said.

It’s been a real poisonous soup trying to get services for the public from Social Security.

Richard Party

executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans

Before visiting Social Security offices, people should first contact online or by phone, Kijakazi urged earlier this year as offices began to reopen.

“To avoid the lines, I strongly encourage people who can to use our online services at www.socialsecurity.gov, call us and make an appointment in advance rather than walking in without date,” Kijakazi said in a statement. “Phone appointments can save you from walking into a busy office.”

Also be aware that if you show up at a Social Security office without an appointment, you may experience delays or longer wait times.

It may also be helpful to schedule your visits or phone calls for times or days when Social Security offices tend to see less traffic. According to Kijakazi, offices tend to be busiest first thing in the morning, early in the week and at the beginning of the month.

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