Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that a bipartisan Senate committee report showed that the Social Security Administration is closing field offices and reducing services to the public even as demands for services surge.
According to the Times, a report issued by the Senate Special Committee on Aging says the SSA has closed more than two dozen field offices in the last year, generally without considering the needs of communities and without consulting beneficiaries or field office managers.
When decisions to close an office are made, the SSA “excludes both its own managers and the affected public,” and the decisions often appear arbitrary, according to the Times.
Nancy A. Berryhill, a deputy commissioner at the agency, said in prepared testimony for a committee hearing that the SSA’s budget and workforce had not kept pace with “a staggering 27 percent increase” in claims for retirement benefits.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said that over the last five years, the SSA has closed 64 offices and 533 temporary mobile offices. “The plan proposes that Social Security shift from face-to-face services to online systems as the primary means of serving beneficiaries,” Collins said, according to the Times. “This is completely unrealistic.”
It should be noted that acting SSA Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said in April that the agency receives about 4 million requests for benefit verification a year and that local offices did not have the staffing to handle the requests. This includes requests for information relating to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser, Colvin said one of the biggest obstacles the agency faces is providing services to people in rural areas.
How Can Social Security Benefits Help Me?
While it is unfortunate that the agency is reducing customer service options, people who receive benefits should not give up hope if they need immediate services. We would suggest visiting the SSA website before going to the office if you have questions about your benefits.
Additionally, if you have questions about an application for benefits, do not hesitate to contact our Tulsa Social Security Disability lawyers for a free evaluation of your case. You may also reach us by phone at (918) 265-1404.
Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security Disability lawyers