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

  1. Linda K.

    I discontinued my “My Social Security” online account in 2015, as I did not have a textable phone for two-step verification. I would like to reinstate my online account, but was told on the phone it must be done in person. Offices are closed. What are my options?

    • Vonda

      Hi Linda, thanks for using our blog. If you are experiencing difficulties with your personal my Social Security account, you may:
      •Call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. At the voice prompt, say “helpdesk”; or
      •Contact your local Social Security office. Local representatives can also assist.

  2. Sam E.

    Why hasn’t the Social Security Administration given the information the IRS needs to make stimulus payments to SSI beneficiaries, SSDI beneficiaries and Social Security Retirement beneficiaries who have direct deposit with banks like JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo Bank. My wife already filed in US District Court against the Social Security Administration and soon I will be filing a complaint with the US District Court against the Social Security Adminisration.

  3. Rudolfo M.

    I know IRS-Treasury is the one sending out stimulus money whether “Non-filer” or “Filer.” I’m a filer but I have yet to receive anything from IRS. I didn’t give them my direct deposite acct number, thinking that IRS checks you for it for the payment. Do you think you could assist us “Filers” who have yet to receive any stimulus money? Thank you.

  4. SYED Y.

    All Employees and Management of SSA is appreciated for their outstanding job.

  5. Richard P.

    I was able to log into my Social Security” online. I was just checking my account information to see that it was up to date. I printed out “Your Social Security Statement. When reviewing it I saw that it show 0 for SS Earnings and 0 Medicare for year 2004 I made and reported $55,829 for both. I had My Last “Your Social Security Statement for year Jan 15 2008” which was mail to me and showed for year 2004 I made and reported $55,829 for both. I applied for retirement for 1 May 2008 and I am receiving my monthly payments ever since 2008. I call your customer service line and talked to one of your staff and he said that it was my problem and I needed to mail in my Tax’s forms for 2004 or W-2 for 2004. I do not keep tax records 16 years old, only the last 10 years. I told him I had the 2008 SS Statement which show that amount for 2004 and that I could copy that and send it in as a PDF file. He told not good enough I needed the W-2 for that year. Now it’s your agency that made the mistake and some how deleted the amount for 2004, you have the capability’s to go back to records for 2004 and correct the error, but No you want me to due it that is just good working relations for the way your agency runs. I would like to hear what your agency has to say.

    • Vonda

      Hi Richard, thank you for reaching out. We do not have access to private information in this venue. You will need to 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.

  6. About C.

    Very good.

  7. Rosa M.

    Recozco que siempre esten tratando de atender lo mejor posble a todo aquel que necesita de sus servicios. Aunque para los que vivimos en el extranjero se no hace más dificil tener una cuenta electronica, para poder comunicarnos y recibir respuestas a nuestras inquitudes. “Mi Seguro Social”.

  8. John S.

    Telework is a smart way to save the America people’s tax dollars from being wasted on rent and utilities and an easy way to keep employees happy. The world has seen that telework works over the last year. If SSA ends telework and brings employees back to the office full time after COVID, SSA will lose their good employees to other agencies and employers that continue to allow telework. Employees have seen that they don’t need to commute to an office every day to do their jobs, and they are going to accept a job that requires them to go back into the office every day after COVID.

  9. Josephine J.

    I have an SSI online account, I went into my account, on 3/17/21 and right away, I knowest someone had added another address to my account and it was not me I’m not sure why someone would do that but that not my address for someone to do that and not bother to let me know why this could cause problems for me and it may have already.

    • Vonda

      For your security, Josephine, 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.

  10. MANITH T.

    My wife and two kids have been living here, USA, without SSN for over a year. They deserve have it now. I need their SSN for claiming Tax credit. But when I called local SSA, the answer was just need employment letter of my wife (she has no job yet because she needs to take care our kids). And for our kids’ SSN just wait for office reopened, when? I really need SSN for them.

    • Vonda

      For your security, Manith, 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.

Comments are closed.