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.


Tags: , , ,

See Comments

About the Author

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

Comments

  1. Mardi N.

    Hi, I did not know that the year I turned 66 I would no longer qualify for SSD. Losing the disability status but not the disability has cost me insurance coverage in all the departments I was cover. I have MS and this problem is causing anxiety and stress to the point I am in a constant battle for health improvement. The change to retirement from SSD was a complete surprise. The fact that I was told nothing would change was incorrect. I need the full insurance coverage I had before. I have called SS and explained as well as I can what has happened. I had to quit my job, 10 hours a week, minimum wage because of health issues and lack of coverage. My question is simply this, How can you change a disabled persons label from disability to retired? I still have the disability and it will never go away. Help me understand how you can hurt the most vulnerable people?
    Please just give me a truthful answer. Your organization was such a great help to me when I was diagnosed with MS. Now help doesn’t exist.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Mardi. We are sorry to hear about your condition and situation. When you reach full retirement age, we automatically convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same. You may be eligible to receive social services from the state in which you live. These services include free meals, housekeeping help, transportation, or help with other problems. To get information about services in your area and find out if you qualify, you will need to contact your state or local social services or welfare office. We hope this helps.

  2. Christine

    Hello. I have applied for Social Security and I am a legal immigrant but not a US citizen. SS needs my certified birth certificate and original green card so I made an appointment to take them in so they could verify, copy and return my documents to me while I was there. When I arrived, I was told I could only drop the documents off and they would mail them back to me. Unfortunately, I am required by law to always be in possession of my green card so I cannot do this. Also, on 5/5/21, the notice I received from SS specifically advised me to bring them to the SS office where the would be examined and returned to me because of this. Can you assist please? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Vonda

      Hi Christine, thanks for using our blog. Do not mail any DHS lawful presence documents to SSA. Please call your local Social Security office to schedule an appointment to review and certify your original documentation. 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.

      • Christine

        Hi Vonda and thank you for your fast response. I did call the local office and explain the situation which is when they set up my 5/11/21 appointment with them. I believed they were going to review and certify my documents and give them right back to me during that appointment. But when I got to the local office, I was told that all I could do was leave them in the drop box and they would return them to me by mail when they’d reviewed them. I called the local office right after this happened and was basically told that this is the way it worked and I just needed to make another appt and leave them in the drop box which, as you also know, is not an option. So thanks for any further help you can give.

        • James

          I am having the same issue. I have called the local office and the national hotline several times and each time I was told that I would need to mail my green card to my local social security office in order for my application to be processed.

          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 even followed that by saying they would not be responsible if they lost my green card!

          • Christine

            Hi James – I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through the same thing. On 5/17/21, I called the Charlotte NC office again and re-explained the situation. The person who took my call emailed a manager re the situation and advised that they would mail me a letter within 2 weeks. To date, I have not received any correspondence from them. I just called the local office again and got transferred to the Ashville NC office and the gentleman there completely understood that my documents would need to be brought in. Unfortunately, we got cut off so I’m back to calling again. The Charlotte office (and obviously the office where your claim is) is not following SSA protocol where lawful resident documents are concerned. Hopefully Commissioner Saul’s office can step in and give them some directives.

  3. Rose M.

    Hi I just went from from SSA to SS when I turned 66. I have not received my $600 stimulus. I haven’t had yo file for 6 years but I did for 2020 to get the stimulus check. I did that about 2 months ago . Could you check on this and get back to me? I know you guts are swamed. Thank you in advance for your help

    Rose

    • Vonda

      Hi Rose, thank you for using our blog. The IRS, not Social Security, sends all economic impact payments. Unfortunately, our telephone representatives and social media team cannot answer your specific situation about payments. You can find the latest information available from the IRS website. If you don’t see the answer to your question, you can call the IRS’ payment hotline at 1-800-919-9835. Thanks!

  4. Yvonne

    First I want to commend you for good service the last time I visited in person! Very efficient process.
    Second I want to complain that many of us are not comfortable doing business online with Social Security given the security risks of it and I hope in-person service will be available for us soon.
    Some type of drop-box service would be preferable to reliance on First Class mail, which is nothing of the kind.
    Unrelated comment here, if SSI were eliminated and benefits available earlier like at age 50 for financial reasons only this would eliminate a lot of bureaucracy IMHO.
    Thank you.

  5. Kathi H.

    I wrote here in this topic on April 25th, and my situation has gotten so much worse and NO ONE will help me!!!! It’s as though no one cares at all…. after all, it’s not their problem. I have now been taken to court 2 TIMES and my health is declining rapidly. It has been over 14 MONTHS since I have had any income!!!!! Is there anyone at Social Security that cares?????? I passed desperate a few months back. PLEASE HELP ME!!!!!!!!

    • Vonda

      For your security, Kathi, we do not have access to private information in this venue. 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.

      • Kathi H.

        If you had read my original message here, you would know I have been calling that number for 14 months….. weekly!!!
        I have run out of options!!!!

        • Please h.

          Something needs to be done, this is out of order!!!

  6. Michael W.

    Hi. I need help with some information. The question is when I make this online account for my social security will I be able to see my children’s social security number and other information as well?

    • Vonda

      Hi Michael, thanks for using our blog. If you are the representative payee for your children, you can conduct business for them in your my Social Security account. The Representative Payee Portal is a central portal where you can conduct your own Social Security business or manage direct deposit, wage reporting, and annual reporting for your children that you are payee for. If your children aren’t receiving benefits, then you will not have access to their information. We hope this helps!

      • Michael W.

        Thank you for your response it was very helpful!

  7. Klais S.

    If you want a good work, writing a good curriculum is very critical. Sometimes, the candidate’s assessment begins with a CV and you cannot be interviewed, even though it is not good enough, because at the beginning of the CV you are an expert. I went to the people, and I was happy that they helps me, that could write a good resume. They have written https://resumeedge.com/resume-writing . I didn’t even expect my resume to become a mighty document. I soon found work with.

  8. Walid

    Good Day Commissioner, We live in New York and are having a very difficult time applying for our Medicare benefit online and when we call local Jamaica, NY office they keep telling us to call back. Its been almost one month and after countless calls we continue to receive the same response. We don’t have any insurance and desperately need to see a doctor.

    • Vonda

      Hi Walid. 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.

  9. Katherine

    When will you reopen for appointments? This is insane. I can go anywhere, including the DMV, but I can’t go to SSA?

    • Vonda

      Hi Katherine, thanks for using our blog. Social Security offices are currently open only for in-person appointments for limited, critical situations. We are unable to accept walk-in visitors. If you feel you have a critical situation, please visit our Social Security and Coronavirus web page for more information.

      • Vicki L.

        BS is BS.

        • GreggT

          Ditto what Vicki said.
          Been trying to access my online account or come in for over a year….almost as long as I’ve posted to this blog.

  10. Laura

    I am so frustrated. I have been divorced for over 16 months and am desperate to change my name. However, there is absolutely no way I will mail in my license and not have it for an unknown length of time (and I do not have a current passport because I’m trying to change my name back!). This is really becoming ridiculous and I do not want my ex husband’s name anymore! What gives? I have yet to even fill in the last name on my Covid vaccine card because I don’t want my current last name on there! Please help.

    • Vonda

      Hi Laura, thanks for using our blog. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page on how to change your name. All submitted documents must be either originals or certified copies by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.

      Our Social Security and Coronavirus web page, under “Getting Help from Social Security heading”, provides details on the documents you need to mail in with your Social Security card application to get a replacement card with your new name. We temporarily expanded our policy to accept secondary identity documents. We hope this helps!

      • April

        You require originals such as drivers license’s yet we are required to CARRY these in order to drive. What happens if we get pulled over, etc? This process is ridiculous at this point. It’s been over a year and everyone else is required to report to work. OPEN YOUR OFFICES!

        • Vonda

          Hi April, thank you for using our blog. We are temporarily allowing people to mail in an original or certified secondary identity document with their paper Social Security Number application (SS-5) if they cannot request a replacement SSN card online, or if they are unwilling or unable to mail the primary identity document. Check out our Social Security and Coronavirus web page for a listing of secondary documentation that you can provide to get a replacement card. We hope this helps!

Comments are closed.