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. Katelyn Snider

    My daughter was born at the beginning of the pandemic, May 2020 and we’ve waited a year almost and not received her card from filing in the hospital at birth. The SSA is showing it was delivered, but we live in an apartment complex where mail is often mis-delivered and no signature was obviously required (which should be). My daughters doctor found a tumor in her neck and wants us to see an oncologist for PET scans, which we can’t afford, so she’s pending Medicaid. We can’t finalize her Medicaid without her social and the offices here will not make appts for babies, only 12 and up. This is completely unfair, this is the definition of a dire situation and we are completely at the mercy of the SSA whose representatives are rude and uncaring when you talk to them. All I need is her number, I can mail for a replacement layer, but don’t have weeks to wait right now. Plus I have little confidence in mailing original legal documents, when they are not protected in the mail when being returned. Any help here is much appreciated.

    Reply
    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Katelyn. We are very sorry to hear about our daughter’s condition and your experience. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community to continue to work with our offices with specific questions. You can ask to speak to a manager on your next call. We hope this is resolved soon.

      Reply
  2. Kimberly

    I wish this administration was more intune with the people. We live in DFW and the offices here are as rude as can be when you call, if you can even get through and not get hung up on. I understand the pandemic has affected them, but it has affected a lot of businesses that aren’t reacting as if they don’t have a responsibility to the public. Read reviews Mr. Saul, improve customer service, and expect more from those who serve the public. Not right.

    Reply
    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Kimberly. 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
    • Dianne

      I have also experienced rudeness and being hung on. Like I said these people need to be fired!

      Reply
  3. Kathi H

    I have been trying to get my Social Security straight for 14 months now. I am an American living in Belize for 11 years. I receive widows benefits. At the time I signed up, I also opened a Direct Express account because I do not make enough to open a bank account here. I have been receiving some of my paper checks (many have not made it to me) which are useless here because no one will cash them, and because no one seems to be able to manage to get the money into my Direct Express account (which is active and I have an activated card). I have spent thousands of dollars in long distance calls to the main phone number and to the one in Costa Rica (my local office). Everyone says it’s the payment center and they send “Urgent” reports to them, but in 14 months no one has managed to get anything done. I have gone through all of my savings, and am now living on borrowed money. I can’t even retrieve the ashes from my late husband from the funeral home so I can give him a proper service, and they are seeking legal actions against me. I can not pay the taxes on my home, and they too are about to take legal actions. My health is being greatly affected by all this and my credit here is ruined. I can’t even afford to go to the dentist for an abscessed tooth. I counted on that money for my old age…… now I’m there and everything I worked all those years for is gone…… I am in desperate need of help!!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Kathi. We are sorry to hear about your experience and situation. We have referred your concerns to our Operations Staff for follow up and to take corrective action as necessary. You may also 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 is resolved soon.

      Reply
      • Kathi H

        Thank you Ann. I really hope this gets resolved, as well. I am way to old and have worked way too hard during my life to be going through this now. I have never been so scared or felt so helpless in my life. If I lose my home and get deported, I will have lost everything. There will be nothing left for me and no where to go.

        Reply
      • Kathi H

        Hi Ann. I tried writing to the place you suggested. They told me to call the same places I have been calling for 14 months, so it was obvious they didn’t even read what I wrote to them. Sadly, this is why I have gotten no where thus far. I hope that your forwarding my letter here to the Operations Staff yields better results. I don’t know where else to turn at this point.

        Reply
      • William Lasch

        All I want to do is change the bank account that my benefits are deposited into. I opened a new checking account about a month ago but when I try to change the deposit instructions, your website refers me to “Just Answer.com” a website that charges for advice! I don’t want to pay a third party for ADVICE, I simply want to give you my new bank’s ROUTING NUMBER

        Reply
        • Vonda

          Hi William, thanks for using our blog. Please ensure that you are at Social Security’s official government site: http://www.ssa.gov. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for details on how to sign up or change direct deposit. We hope this helps!

          Reply
  4. Niki Perez

    It’s stated that the number of CDR’s have been reduced due to Covid. But what guidelines does SSA put in place to choose who will be receiving CDR’s?
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Niki. Thank you for your question. The Social Security Administration reviews cases from time to time to make sure the individuals receiving checks are still eligible to get them. The review depends on how severe your medical condition is and the likelihood it will improve. Generally, if medical improvement is possible, we will do a continuing disability review (CDR) approximately every 3 years. If not, we may review it less frequently. For more information about continuing disability reviews, visit here. We hope this helps.

      Reply
  5. Pamela

    My stepson got a termination of benefits on March 15th, 2021. We delivered the response and asked for an immediate reinstatement on Friday, April 2nd. We have not heard from the people in Oroville, CA. Even before sending in the reinstatement request our son and us tried to get someone to speak to by phone. The wait time was over 2 hours and non less than an hour. When someone did call our son, they asked what he wanted and after he told them, they just hung up on him. Our son has autism and so we help him with these issues. We finally got hold of someone but it took 3 SS representatives before we got one that was helpful and knew what she was talking about. So, I guess my question is: how long is the wait time for a response to my son’s appeal request? When are the wait times going to get better on the phone?

    Reply
    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Pamela. We are sorry to hear about your son’s experience and situation. For his security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community to continue to work with our offices with specific questions. He can ask to speak to a supervisor on his next call. We have also referred your concerns to our Operations Staff. We hope this is resolved soon.

      Reply
  6. Brenda D

    I am sending this request through this blog since I have called the Social Security Administration (SSA) several times and have not received an amended SSA-1099. In 2020 I applied for social security benefits but withdrew my application. I received payment for one month after I withdrew. I returned the payment to SSA on Oct. 23, 2020 and my check was cashed by SSA on Dec. 17th 2020. I received a 1099 for 2020 from SSA which did not reflect the payment that I returned.
    In an effort to obtain a corrected 1099, I followed up with the SSA on the following dates as described below:
    • Feb. 9, 2021, spoke with SSA representative and requested for a revised 1099. She told me that it may take 30 days to receive a revised document.
    • March 15, 2021, spoke with my local SSA office. She was not able to find documentation of my request from Feb. 9th. She then proceeded to send another request.
    • On Mar. 30th spoke with SSA office. She was able to see my request from Feb. 9th. She stated that a new 1099 was created but it did not reflect the payment which I sent back to SSA. This 1099 is unchanged from the original. She was able to confirm my returned check which was cashed by SSA in Dec 2020. She proceeded to send another request to the Payment Center. She stated that the Payment Center does not have a phone number and I will be unable to explain it to them directly.
    • On April 8th, spoke with my local SSA office. The representative was very conscientious and was able to find all the documentation of my calls to SSA. He found that within about 2 days of my request, there is documentation that the request was completed. Once again, none of the 1099 documents reflect the returned payment which was cashed by SSA in the 2020 tax year.
    • On April 8th, the Easton representative once again requested for another revised 1099.
    • On April 12th, I received a 1099 in the mail without acknowledging my repayment or an explanation of the unchanged document.
    The agents I have spoken with were able to find the payment which I returned. Yet, there has been no explanation regarding the lack of acknowledgement of my repayment. We are awaiting the amended return or an explanation of the absence of my repayment under Box 4 of SSA-1099 in order to file an accurate tax return for 2020.

    Reply
    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Brenda. We are sorry to hear about your experience. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community continue to work with our offices with specific concerns. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You can also contact your local Social Security office. You can ask to speak to a supervisor on your next call. We hope this is resolved soon.

      Reply
      • Marcelia S Trent

        This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of! Yet there is people such as my self who really can used the SS from the money that was taken out of my paycheck every pay period! Might I add did give permission for SS to deduct out of my hard earned money! Did I mention HARD EARNED MONEY! I applied back in December 2016.I’ve been delayed given the run around, paperwork has been lost by the SSA hear in Jax,FL. I personally delivered my completed paperwork in person in a timely fashioned EVERY time! I’ve had a Judge send me a letter stating my paperwork was not delivered & completed in time, which was a lie! I’ve hired good well know Attornies to represent me Morgan & Morgan was one, they didn’t follow up & communicate like they were supposed to, I did ALL the work! Long story short Thinking of my last time applying which this is approximately the 3rd or my 4th time applying I went before the judge for a hearing in Jan 2020. We(me, husband, son & nephew! Let’s back it up a bit! I had been applying because I have degenerative discs, arthritis spine issues. Dr Monteiro at Lyerly talked me into a major Back Fusion surgery in which he had a group of doctors to observe me & they sent me a $50k bill without my permission! He botched my back surgery I have excruciating back, leg & neck pain. He referred me to Jax Spine & pain center where they have been giving me injections, pain meds and etc to manage my pain. Well I also have burning in my legs! They have changed so many doctors that this process had not been helping so they decided to try the stimulator after sending me for a CT scan found out I didn’t have room to place a stimulator in my back where the fusion had been performed! Dr Robert’s from Jax Spine sent me to Dr Chahlavi at Ascentions St Luke hospital where he advised me that Dr Monteiro had did an old fashioned back surgery on me which led to bones sticking out of my spine, a damaged Dora which was causing SOME of my neck, back & leg pain! What was supposed to be a outpatient surgery turned into an inpatient because when he performed the surgery found that I had a TUMOR & an Crystallized cyst on my spine where it was so hard that he couldn’t send it for a biopsy! The nurse advised me that my pressure went down so low that I coded a couple of times on the operator table Also they didn’t get ALL of the TUMOR!!! I have been trying to get Social SeCurity to help me ALL these years to finally get an hearing in January 2020, I did everything they asked of me, went into courthouse before Judge , Elizabeth the lady assisting him & a dr on the phone in court. The Judge Landry thanked me for being organized because I came prepared, in the interim my so called Lawyer Jessica Dumas quit on me two weeks before we were due in court! The Judge apologized for her actions! I left the court feeling like I accomplished something! But here we are in April 2021, nothing has been completed on my file! Elizabeth told he was trying to figure out how much to settle me for! Recently they asked me to go to see one of their doctors! More delays during COVID! The Dr said She saw that I could barely stand and/or walk very long, not more than 10 mins because I was in so much pain. I’ve called every other day to check the status, it seemed! I have not received not one letter or any correspondence from Social Security or the administrator law Judge Landry Landrum or whomever! I recently made a called to their office & ended up speaking with Elizabeth, she said she assist the Judge, she was pinging him through Instant messages said that the Judge has my file on his desk amongst many more because they were behind due to COVID! She told me that I could write a letter to change my onset date from 12/2016 of applying to June 19, 2020 (but to make sure I state I became aware that I had that option) I’m not stupid I know what she was trying to do because she said she didn’t feel like doing the paperwork & added that it would create another delay to add on the surgery information to my case ! I was floored, upset disappointed & surprised that she was actually trying to negotiate my back-pay like I was desperate! That took the cake. She was actually trying to take my money in which they have put me through so much during this whole process! I wouldn’t give it a second thought! The social security employees were rude i/when called in for help! I tried getting another lawyer no one would take the case! On one call I was put on hold so that one young lady could tend to her kids working from home during this pandemic! Smh I have endured through some challenging situations and I want ALL of my money! However, to hear this young lady applied and cancelled her APPLICATION and she still received a check….I AM SPEECHLESS!!! To this day I’ve called several times & ELIZABETH will not take my call anymore! My guess is she figured out she made a bad mistaken statement to me! How can I get some help? Who can I talk to? Pass on this info to the proper Authority! PLEASE!!!

        Reply
    • Marcelia S Trent

      This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of! Yet there is people such as my self who really can used the SS from the money that was taken out of my paycheck every pay period! Might I add did give permission for SS to deduct out of my hard earned money! Did I mention HARD EARNED MONEY! I applied back in December 2016.I’ve been delayed given the run around, paperwork has been lost by the SSA hear in Jax,FL. I personally delivered my completed paperwork in person in a timely fashioned EVERY time! I’ve had a Judge send me a letter stating my paperwork was not delivered & completed in time, which was a lie! I’ve hired good well know Attornies to represent me Morgan & Morgan was one, they didn’t follow up & communicate like they were supposed to, I did ALL the work! Long story short Thinking of my last time applying which this is approximately the 3rd or my 4th time applying I went before the judge for a hearing in Jan 2020. We(me, husband, son & nephew! Let’s back it up a bit! I had been applying because I have degenerative discs, arthritis spine issues. Dr Monteiro at Lyerly talked me into a major Back Fusion surgery in which he had a group of doctors to observe me & they sent me a $50k bill without my permission! He botched my back surgery I have excruciating back, leg & neck pain. He referred me to Jax Spine & pain center where they have been giving me injections, pain meds and etc to manage my pain. Well I also have burning in my legs! They have changed so many doctors that this process had not been helping so they decided to try the stimulator after sending me for a CT scan found out I didn’t have room to place a stimulator in my back where the fusion had been performed! Dr Robert’s from Jax Spine sent me to Dr Chahlavi at Ascentions St Luke hospital where he advised me that Dr Monteiro had did an old fashioned back surgery on me which led to bones sticking out of my spine, a damaged Dora which was causing SOME of my neck, back & leg pain! What was supposed to be a outpatient surgery turned into an inpatient because when he performed the surgery found that I had a TUMOR & an Crystallized cyst on my spine where it was so hard that he couldn’t send it for a biopsy! The nurse advised me that my pressure went down so low that I coded a couple of times on the operator table Also they didn’t get ALL of the TUMOR!!! I have been trying to get Social SeCurity to help me ALL these years to finally get an hearing in January 2020, I did everything they asked of me, went into courthouse before Judge , Elizabeth the lady assisting him & a dr on the phone in court. The Judge Landry thanked me for being organized because I came prepared, in the interim my so called Lawyer Jessica Dumas quit on me two weeks before we were due in court! The Judge apologized for her actions! I left the court feeling like I accomplished something! But here we are in April 2021, nothing has been completed on my file! Elizabeth told he was trying to figure out how much to settle me for! Recently they asked me to go to see one of their doctors! More delays during COVID! The Dr said She saw that I could barely stand and/or walk very long, not more than 10 mins because I was in so much pain. I’ve called every other day to check the status, it seemed! I have not received not one letter or any correspondence from Social Security or the administrator law Judge Landry Landrum or whomever! I recently made a called to their office & ended up speaking with Elizabeth, she said she assist the Judge, she was pinging him through Instant messages said that the Judge has my file on his desk amongst many more because they were behind due to COVID! She told me that I could write a letter to change my onset date from 12/2016 of applying to June 19, 2020 (but to make sure I state I became aware that I had that option) I’m not stupid I know what she was trying to do because she said she didn’t feel like doing the paperwork & added that it would create another delay to add on the surgery information to my case ! I was floored, upset disappointed & surprised that she was actually trying to negotiate my back-pay like I was desperate! That took the cake. She was actually trying to take my money in which they have put me through so much during this whole process! I wouldn’t give it a second thought! The social security employees were rude i/when called in for help! I tried getting another lawyer no one would take the case! On one call I was put on hold so that one young lady could tend to her kids working from home during this pandemic! Smh I have endured through some challenging situations and I want ALL of my money! However, to hear this young lady applied and cancelled her APPLICATION and she still received a check….I AM SPEECHLESS!!! To this day I’ve called several times & ELIZABETH will not take my call anymore! My guess is she figured out she made a bad mistaken statement to me! How can I get some help? Who can I talk to?

      Reply
  7. Bobbi Jo Horton

    Due to a divorce I need to change my name and get a new SS Card. I see that I need to mail my divorce degree which grants the name change and also my driver license for identification. Why am I expected to send my original drivers license? How can I drive without it?

    Reply
    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Bobbi Jo. Thanks for your question. We temporarily expanded our policy to accept secondary identity documents. Read our recent blog to see other proofs you may use when applying by mail. We hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Bobbi Jo Horton

        Thank you for responding to me. I do not have any of the secondary identity documents. The only documents that I have are my driver’s license and my divorce decree approving the name change. I just renewed my driver’s license. Can’t I send a copy of it? It is the only ID that I having showing my name, address, and birthdate.

        Reply
        • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

          Hi, Bobbi Jo. No, we cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. Thanks!

          Reply
  8. Joie

    Need to know when SS office in Merrillville, IN will reopen for walk-ins (to walk into). Thank you. Need an idea of how soon this will happen.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Joie, thanks for using our blog. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for details on how we are still able to provide critical services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue to check the Social Security and Coronavirus web page for updates. You may select Subscribe to receive alerts from us when we add or change information. We hope this helps!

      Reply
  9. Bruce H.

    Using the website, my wife tried to apply on line for retirement benefits. She had no problem applying for medicare but the SSI system asked a few questions then rejects her application saying questions she answered did not match information. The only questions she made any new response to was she was not blind or dying and the system kicked her out. We called an SSI rep. but the representative could not find any errors but she now has to wait a month to be able to speak to someone to apply on the phone. Is there another way to make this work? The delay will could cost us thousands of dollars.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Bruce, thanks for using our blog. If unable to apply online, you do need to call and make an appointment. However, a protective filing date is established when you call to make the appointment so that you do not miss out on any benefits. We hope this helps!

      Reply
  10. Cindy

    I have trouble understanding a lot of things on websites because I have to go back and forth. It would help me out a lot if I had someone to show me in person and explain everything about different options. People need this service opened back up, if people can go to restaurants and every where else then why can’t you open and help people like me that need your help in person.

    Reply
    • Josh Seo

      This is Amazing For Newbie Kindly Follow This Hero Gayab Mode On

      Reply
    • GreggT

      Ditto that. Open the offices.
      I’ve been locked out of my online account now for 14 months.

      Reply
      • Vonda

        Hi Gregg, thanks for using our blog. If you are locked out of your my Social Security account, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 7:00 pm. At the voice prompt, say “helpdesk”; or contact 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
        • Gregg Tipple

          Vondra, I have called six time in the past year. SS staff repeat the mantra that I must appear in-person to verify my identity in order that my online account be un-blocked. Are these staff members all incorrect? Since my situation is not life-threatening nor a medical emergency (by their standards) I can not be granted a special in-person appointment…..so here I sit over a year.
          Why are the offices not open?

          Reply

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