After more than two years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) finally opened its offices’ doors on Thursday. After pandemic delays in which the offices were first closed, and later opened for limited hours, a labor agreement reached earlier this year finally set early April as the time for the reopening.
Yet, even with the reopening, the SSA warned of delays and suggested that recipients go online or make phone calls first. And while appointments are no longer required, they are still encouraged.
“Customers who walk in without appointments may encounter delays and longer waits at our offices,” the letter this week from SSA acting commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi said. “Be aware that our offices tend to be the busiest first thing in the morning, early in the week, and during the early part of the month, so people may want to plan to visit at other times.”
Some local media outlets were on hand for the reopenings on Thursday. And one, the WHEC TV station in upstate New York, revealed a fascinating human interest story.
Among the first to show up at the Social Security office in Rochester, that WHEC said, were a mother and her seven-year-old daughter, both of them refugees from Ukraine. They showed up at the Social Security office, without an appointment, hoping to obtain a Social Security number.
That report stated that about fifty people showed up at the office in the first two hours that it was open on Thursday. At least two people told the station that they came to the office because they couldn't get through to SSA on the phone. And while most were “in and out” in thirty minutes, one person told the station’s reporter that the appointment took two hours.
Meanwhile, as the offices reopen, an op-ed in The Hill this week argued that the next step is for Congress to adequately fund the Social Security Administration. This came after Congress funded the agency with $1 billion less than the White House requested, in the most recent omnibus spending bill.
“SSA has been forced to make do with inadequate funding for too long. SSA has cut corners, reduced staff, and closed field offices – to the detriment of Americans who depend on Social Security. (Making matters worse, the agency lost some 1,500 workers nationwide during the pandemic.)” Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, wrote in the op-ed. “Many seniors and people with disabilities are no doubt glad that field offices are re-opening. After years of suffering through endless frustrations and sometimes fatal delays, they deserve a fully-funded and functional Social Security Administration."
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.