I have written before about funding problems that the Social Security Administration has faced and how this had, in part, contributed to the unprecedented backlog in claims awaiting disability hearings. A recent New York Times article has me focusing this month on a different issue: simply accessing Social Security Services.
The article reports that 67 Social Security field offices have been closed in the last eight years alone. It is also notable that during this time, they also began closing all of their offices at noon on Wednesdays. If you have spent any time in a Social Security office before, you realize quickly the multitude of individuals needing to do business with Social Security on a daily basis – from new parents applying for Social Security cards for their child, to the retiree updating their record – Social Security truly is a program that impacts individuals at all stages of life. In fact, according to an OIG report, over 40 million people visit Social Security offices each year; roughly an eighth of the total US population.
An individual’s ability to access services in a quick and efficient manner is paramount to a functioning social program. Additional barriers to accessing these services, in the form of office closures, often create hardship among the individuals who rely on them most. While Social Security has rolled out additional online programs, such as the, my Social Security account and the SSI wage reporting app, these services are limited in their functionality and in many cases do not substitute for an actual office visit.
Fortunately, in the House of Representatives a bill entitled Maintain Access to Vital Social Security Services Act has been introduced, which, among other things, requires the Administration to provide advanced notice of further office closings, hold public hearings on the issue, and have the action reviewed by the Inspector General of SSA.
If you would like more information about the Maintain Access to Vital Social Security Services Act, please follow the link:
Representative Ehren Ehrbright