COVID-19, Online Services, SSI

Letter to the Public on Service

March 17, 2021 • By

Last Updated: July 20, 2021

A photo headshot of SSA Commissioner Andrew SaulI want to update you about how things are going at the Social Security Administration.

About a year ago, I took the unprecedented step to close our offices to the public. I did this to keep our employees and you—the public we serve—safe.  As we enter year two of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines and other precautionary measures give us cause for hope. For now, we will continue our current safety measures as described in our COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan. This plan is iterative, and we will update it as we receive additional government-wide guidance and information from public health experts in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Like many businesses and organizations, the pandemic has forced us to adapt. I want to thank our employees for their willingness to embrace innovative ways of working while we continue to deliver our mission. As we examine our work in a new light, we are asking which lessons learned could improve service beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

We understand that the public wants to engage with us on some matters in person, and our local offices are integral to our communities. We also know that not everyone can conveniently come to us in person and that when you do visit, you want the process to be efficient. For example, we may need evidence from you, but we do not need to interview you in person. We are currently testing drop box and express appointment options for the public to bring in documentation.

Often, you only need to know your Social Security number and do not need a physical Social Security card. However, if you do need to replace your card, we are testing video appointments if you need a new Social Security card but do not need to change any of the information in our records. Although ideas like these began as solutions during COVID-19, we are considering how they could improve service in the future.

Some of these concepts also allow us to consider how we might continue to use telework, something that most organizations and companies have depended on during the COVID-19 pandemic, to drive longer-term operational efficiencies like reducing space. We could use those savings to provide you more online service options and hire more people to serve you more quickly as well as to retain outstanding employees. We will continue to engage our managers, employees, and unions on ways we could use telework to improve customer service and other issues.

We often note that Social Security touches the lives of nearly every American. Be assured that as we continue to evolve, we are committed to serving everyone including our most vulnerable populations who often require in person assistance. We are working with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, claimant advocates, and other organizations to ensure our services are accessible to people with low income, limited English proficiency, mental illness, or facing homelessness. We recently added online tools and information pages to our website including:

As we contemplate the future, we are delivering now. To help improve deteriorating service, we have added over 6,000 frontline employees to help you. We decreased the average wait to talk to our 800 Number agents by one-third and reduced the agent busy rate by over 50 percent in the last two years, and our 800 Number agents handled 1.6 million more calls than they did a year ago.

During the pandemic, we shifted service to the telephone where local office employees answered 13 million more calls last year than they did in fiscal (FY) 2019. They answered your calls in under 3 minutes on average compared to an average wait of nearly 24 minutes in FY 2019.

For individuals who were denied benefits and requested an appeal, we quickly shifted to holding hearings by telephone at the start of the pandemic and then added online video hearings. During the pandemic, we have continued to reduce the number of people waiting for a hearing to 376,000 at the end of February 2021, the lowest level in nearly 20 years. We reduced the average wait for a hearing by over 9 months in the last two years. If you are still waiting for a hearing, please consider scheduling by telephone or video. You can find out more information about telephone hearings and video hearings.

The pandemic has significantly disrupted parts of our disability process, particularly at the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) that make disability determinations for us. We have provided the DDSs with additional hiring and overtime to help address a significant increase in pending initial disability cases. The DDSs have been able to reduce the number of people waiting for a decision on initial disability claims by about 100,000 cases since the height of the pending cases in August 2020. In order to make initial disability decisions as quickly as possible, and to reduce the burden on the medical community still stressed from the pandemic, we have focused our limited resources on completing initial requests for disability benefits and have reduced the number of continuing disability reviews we are conducting.

We have made some notable improvements to our online services:

  • Our redesigned Retirement Benefits Portal helps you prepare and apply for retirement benefits, with clearer, simplified information.
  • We improved our registration process for our online my Social Security account – more than one million people will register for an account this month.
  • Our Message Center allows people with a my Social Security account to access notices online instead of by mail.
  • We implemented an online payment option for people to repay debts to Social Security.
  • We expanded our online Social Security card replacement service to almost all states. If you need to replace your card, you can request a replacement through your my Social Security account if you:
    • Are a U.S. citizen age 18 years or older with a U.S. mailing address;
    • Are not requesting a name change or any other change to your card; and
    • Have a driver’s license or a state-issued identification card from one of 45 participating states or the District of Columbia. If your state does not yet participate in this service, check back soon. More states are added regularly.

The entire team at Social Security is working hard to serve you. We thank you for your patience during the COVID-19 pandemic and we look forward to welcoming you back in our offices when it is safe to do so. We also look forward to continuing to improve all of our service channels to provide you with convenient options to do business with us.


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About the Author

Commissioner of Social Security Administration (June 17, 2019 - July 9, 2021)

Comments

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  1. stephen warnock

    will a 200 more be on my ssi

    Reply
  2. John T

    I am trying to get a replacement card for my daughter so she can get her license in Illinois, which requires a physical card. Because of the type of documents required to get a replacement, we need an appointment. The process to schedule an appointment is absurd! Process -> I call someone to schedule where that individual doesn’t schedule me but rather puts me in a callback queue for the scheduling team to call me back. I have received 2 calls in a 2 week time period both which I have missed due to either being in a work meeting and the other due to briefly stepping away from my phone to get something to drink. I can’t be by the phone all day every week day without any indication of when the call might be coming in. Come on! This process couldn’t be less customer-centric if it tried.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Thank you for using our blog, John. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for information on how to replace a Social Security card for a child. To learn more on the process and what documents you and your child will need to get a card, please visit our Learn what documents you will need to get a Social Security Card web page.

      You can call your local office for guidance on the appropriate service channels available for submitting evidence. Use our Social Security Office Locator to find your local office address.

      Reply
      • Lisa

        Why is Andrew Saul’s pictures still plastered all over this website? He was a joke and I’m happy he’s not over SSA amymore!!! I do believe he wanted nobody to get disability,just another opinion i have. Hopefully SSA will get a overhaul.To all the people thats struggling ,barely keeping their head above water while fighting for benefits, will get approved before we die!

        Reply
        • Dianne

          I concur, glad he’s gone and more should follow him out the door!

          Reply
          • JT

            This guy was planted in this job to deny people of their benfits (Disability) and he did everything possible to slow down the process of people in need. Thank Biden for dumping him. He was shamefull.

  3. Niki P

    When receiving a decision for SSDI disability approval and the decision says for there to be a CDR in 12 months, does that mean that there WILL BE a CDR in 12 months? And secondly, if yes, and the decision is made in the month of June, what month can you expect the forms?
    Lastly, does the SSA request records and review them to save time and money before continuing with the CDR if they can make a decision easily that the recipient is indeed still disabled or does the review need to take place with the recipients participation no matter what for the record? Thanks and sorry for so many questions. It is my hope that they all get answered accurately. CDR’s are confusing and a 12 month review is particularly frustrating when you have have gone 7 years waiting in between hearings and for a fair judge with an approval record of greater than 24%. There is NO standard or oversight (NOT the APPEALS COUNCILS) by which the SSA holds their Administrative Law Judges when deciding a case and what medical evidence they will document in their decision, nor what doctors they will consider (even if it is a pain doctor you saw for 2 years) and document in their decision. A complete overhaul of these standards needs to take place to 1. weed out fraud: attorneys who are best friends with judges 2. Keep the truly disabled from losing everything they have waiting 7 years for the luck of the draw getting an ALJ with a fair approval rating percentage so you stand a chance at the truth of your condition being considered. I know I share this opinion with millions. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Niki, thank you for using our blog. Check out our Social Security and Coronavirus web page for details on continuing disability reviews during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can call your local office if you still have questions. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal.

      Reply
      • Tlc

        Hello, I hope I have the right blog..
        I have been without a source of income since the end of 2017…I have been very sad with the entire processes for a person who becomes disabled. All my savings/retirement gone. At one point no medical insurance as my husband lost his job. Unable to afford care. I have many other medical issues that stack against me but I try to overcome. Your department has no idea who I am. Do not say check web site. The Web site dropped application after 18 months no one in your department helped me when I requested assistance. This led to confusion. Imagine a blind woman (oops vision impaired) asking for help? I was met with a sarcastic woman who told me that she doesn’t do this paper work I do. This is 4 years without a job. I lost my career. Lawyer is awful. Did not go prepared for hearing😢

        Reply
        • Diana Varela

          Hello, and thank you for using our blog. We encourage you to contact your local Social Security office for further assistance. While you are waiting for your hearing decision, you may be eligible to receive services from the state in which you live. These services include Medicaid, meals, housekeeping help, transportation or help with other problems. You can get information about services in your area from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services webpage. We hope this helps.

          Reply
  4. Marie.

    ThiS has got to be the Biggest Hokey Fraudulent Administration in the All of the USA. I and My Spouse Also are True Authentic Legitimate Citizens who Come from Families Who Settled from Ellis Island. Who they too are True Citizens. And I being 661/2 years old. And am Unemployed because of Medications for my Severe Anxiety and Arthritis in Feet and Legs Hindering Me and Causing unexpected Sleeps. AL my Spouse being a Retired Sargent of the US Army 10 years, tried to have Me Collect from his Own Retirement Work Record while He is still Employed. THE END RESULT IS WE WERE HIT BY THE “PONTIUS PILATE” WITH DENIAL. Have a Nice Day.

    Reply
  5. stephen warnock

    are ssi geting a 200 raze

    Reply
  6. Christa Cahue

    I log in every day to see the status of my application..well the ssa made a decision on my review on June 16th..it stated that my application was sent to my local office for a final review to “make sure I was still eligible for non medical benefits ” but in only 2 days(June 18th) I received my denial letter…apparently I was denied way before that…which to me , seems pretty unfair…

    Reply
    • Vonda

      For your security, Christa, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can call your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

      Reply
  7. GreggT

    It’s now June 8th……will our local office open yet this year or are we shooting for 2022?
    Yes I’ve called many, many times but told Ihave to appear in person in order for my on-line acct. to be unblocked. It was apparently blocked by mistake March of 2020. I’ve had no access since then.

    Reply
  8. Shauntilly

    Reply
  9. James S

    What do we do if our local social security office insists that we have to mail our lawful presence documents (such as green cards) to them in order to get our applications processed, contrary to the guidance on your website? Is there a way to escalate this issue to an appeals department if social security refuses to process our applications unless we mail DHS lawful presence documents to them?

    I have called the national hotline and my local office several times. Each time, they tell me I have to mail my green card to them and that they will mail it back, but I am required to carry my green card on me at all times.

    One agent even told me that she knew I was required to keep my green card on me at all times and that it would cost over $600 to get replaced, but that mailing my green card to social security was the only option. She then followed that by saying they would not be responsible if they lost my green card.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi James. We are sorry to hear about your experience. You can submit feedback by visiting our Contact Social Security page. Once there, select the “Email Us” link. This will take you to the “Email A Question to our Support Team” form, where you can complete and submit a compliment, complaint, or suggestion. We hope this helps.

      Reply

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