COVID-19, Online Services, SSI

Letter to the Public on Service

March 17, 2021 • By

Last Updated: April 2, 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

Andrew Saul, Commissioner, Social Security Administration

Andrew Saul, Commissioner, Social Security Administration

Commissioner of Social Security Administration

Comments

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  1. John Morsman

    Fire immediately A. hole Saul!

    Reply
  2. janeese

    I am appalled that Andrew Saul held up 30 million Americans’ seniors, disabled, veterans stimulus #2 & 3 pymts whose only source of income is SSA, SSDI, SSI, VA for months now. He should be fired!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Charles Ferry

      Why don’t we fire or ban the people who have been jerks and said hateful things on this site I thought you banned for hate speech and derogatory statements on Facebook. I guess it’s only if you’re on the right. But communists and socialist you can say whatever you want!

      Reply
  3. Mike Chancey

    I am working with the Gainesville GA SSA office.
    I have commitments from employees there to return my phone call and they have committed to help me solve my problem they created with IRMA. So far I have spent hours, letters, faxes, appeals and numerous phone calls. Only to be put off since Nov 2020. I would like to request someone with some authority interven and see if I could really get some help from SSA. I am confident I have expelled all avenues of being nice and professional and apparently no one in this office gives is willing to do anything more that just commit to get back to me and they never do. Who will help me from and executive level to look into this matter and help me. I am very put out and feel I am left out where no one at SSA cares about service and the public. If you do not believe me contact me and I will give you my cell number

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Mike. We apologize for the difficult time you are experiencing working with Social Security. We have referred your complaint to our Office of Operations to follow up and to take corrective action as necessary.

      Reply
  4. Larry Eugene White

    Andrew Saul must resign or be fired immediately for his incompetence.

    Reply
  5. James

    I really don’t know where else to turn to get a Social Security 1099 form for 2020 that is correct. The SSA-1099 that was mailed to me in January (and posted on “My Social Security” online account) had incorrect information. My SSA-1099 sent to me in January this year, showed Benefits for 2020 incorrectly listed as only $5,116.80 instead of $20,467.20 The initial SSA-1099 form was incorrect as well as 2 additional revised forms updated to my S.S. account.
    • I contacted S.S. at 800-772-1213 immediately on January 11th this year, to let them know my SSA-1099 sent to me (and available on line) was grossly understated and I absolutely could not use those numbers to file my taxes as I would not be paying the correct taxes on my S.S. benefit. They said they would refer this to the payment center.

    • A few weeks later, in early Feb, the SSA-1099 form on my online account was actually updated, but was now showing too much. On Feb 4th, I called Social Security again to report it was now overstated. They said they would refer this to the payment center again.

    • On Feb 10th, my online account was updated again, however now it was almost $20K too much! I have since called both my local S.S. office (who has also sent it on to Chicago apologizing a fix is “out of their hands”) and the national number who said they would again refer it to the payment center. When no new action occurred in weeks, I called again and got a clerk who insisted that I need to call my local office to deal with this, as she can’t help me. I had to convince her that my local office can’t fix this, and that she needed to have someone refer this to the Chicago payment center. This has been such a frustrating experience!

    • Since last update now it’s been a month and ½ more gone by, with absolutely NO new action or updates on my now grossly overstated SSA-1099 despite my weekly calls and pleading on the phone to them, that “If you can’t help me, who can?” I am told it has to come from the regional PAYMENT Center in Chicago, yet I appear to have NO way of contacting them myself, and all I have going is my local office who has already been emailing them the info that my SSA-1099 is still wrong. That has now gone absolutely no where, now as there have been no updates or corrections of any kind in almost 7 weeks!

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi James. We apologize for the difficult time you are experiencing working with Social Security. We have referred your complaint to our Office of Operations to follow up and to take corrective action as necessary.

      Reply
      • James

        Finally, after contacting my Senator Moolenaar, following Rep. Hoitenga, and then posting online on this SSA comment page this past weekend , and Saturday also sending a certified letter to Phyllis Smith at the Chicago Social Security office, this almost 3 month nightmare is over! My local Social Security office called me just now, today, to let me know my SA-1099 was finally updated to the correct amounts. Phew! Thanks to everyone who played a part in helping to resolve this ordeal!

        Reply
      • James

        Thank you for your response, Vonda…as of just today, this issue is finally resolved! My SA-1099 actually has the right numbers for everything at last! Good news came this morning from my local office! Yay~! Between calls to state representative Hoitenga, then Senator Moolenaar, after exhausting efforts at SS 800 number and my local office, I posted here and also sent off a certified letter to Phyllis Smith at Chicago SS Administration that was received by that office on Tues, something finally worked! Phew! Thanks to any and all who were involved in resolving this issue that has gone on since Jan 11th!

        Reply
  6. Fred

    Saul must resign or taken to court was trump’s right hand man. And had no intention of us getting stimulus in attempt to make biden look. Bad. Now crime getting bad senate came in to see wtf. And he still hasn’t said when or if we’re gonna get it

    Reply
  7. Frank obama

    Andrew Saul should resign immediately for his inability.

    USA FOREVER
    https://wadupnaija.com/

    Reply
  8. Lovely Singh

    This letter information can not be understood without Lottery Sambad details.

    Reply
  9. Clifford A Porteous

    I have been on this computer 6 hours trying to get a copy of 2020 1099SSA!!! U’r system is for computer experts not hands on working people!! Still have nothing!!

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Clifford, thanks for using our blog. Sorry to hear about the difficulties you are experiencing. If you’re unable to request a replacement SSA-1099 online, you may be able to request a replacement SSA-1099 by using our automated telephone service at 1-800-772-1213. You can conduct the automated services 24 hours a day. At the prompt, indicate that you’re requesting a replacement SSA-1099.

      You also 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
  10. Darwin L.

    Hi!, I’m writing in here as my last resolution.
    I been waiting for my retroactive payments seems July of 2020 and after many call to my local and other offices of SSA the only answer I ALWAYS get is that they are working on it and I have to wait. How long can it take someone to check some papers and sing it?
    Im NOT RICH or have unlimited money to cover my family and my expenses, so please I beg someone to intervene and help me get this resolved ASAP!!! I don’t mean to cost anyone any trouble…. thank you!!!

    Reply
    • Vonda

      For your security, Darwin, 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
      • Darwin L.

        I tried many times already this venue, but with no luck at all.
        I’m desperate and hopeless now, is definitely a shame that something so simple could take almost a year to resolve because of so much bureaucracy!!!!! Thank you for nothing really!!! If someone is really interested in helping me just use my email address that I provide in this website, stop the runaround!

        Reply

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