Back in December, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at making it easier for Americans to access government services.
“For millions of people who retire each year, you should be able to apply for Social Security benefits without needing to go to a Social Security office and have Medicare proactively reach out to you with the tools you need to manage your health and save money,” the president said when he signed the order.
CNBC reported at the time that the order came as Social Security offices remained closed due to the pandemic. They are still closed, although the Social Security Administration (SSA) and its union recently reached an agreement that will lead to the offices reopening this spring. In addition, the SSA also recently began offering a larger window of time throughout the day for Social Security recipients to drop off important documents.
However, a report this week shows that Social Security recipients are still struggling to access their benefits.
Trouble for COVID-19 Widows
According to a report this week by The 19th, Social Security offices have made it very difficult for the spouses and children of those who have died of COVID-19 to get their benefits.
One mother of nine, whose husband died during the pandemic, struggled for months to obtain Social Security survivor benefits. While those who are retired and need to apply for benefits can do so online, those with more special circumstances must do so over the phone. Normally, people in that position would be able to produce the necessary documents and bring them to an office in person.
However, due to the impact of the pandemic, the woman quoted in the story has had to spend “hours and hours” on the phone.
“Dealing with so many hurdles on top of dealing with loss, while also trying to help nine children grieve this process” has been very painful, the woman told The 19th. “I do not know what our future holds. I just don’t know.”
She is just one of the thousands of people who are seeking survivor benefits and are not able to visit a Social Security office in person. More than 90 percent of those seeking survivor benefits during the era of COVID-19 are women with children.
Another woman interviewed by The 19th noted that following the death of her husband, she had to spend months trying to get through to an office, but ultimately ended up with a one-time benefit of just $255.
“I was angry, because it was like my husband worked his whole life and when he’s gone I don’t get any support because we didn’t have children,” she told the outlet.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.