Social Security Applicants Frustrated With Long Wait Times

Social Security Applicants Frustrated With Long Wait Times

It isn’t smooth sailing at the Social Security Administration.

For the past several weeks, it has been well-documented that the Internal Revenue Service is dealing with a massive backlog from last year while trying to process tax returns in a timely manner from this current season.

It appears that it isn’t smooth sailing at the Social Security Administration (SSA) either.

There already have been plenty of reports of Social Security applicants who just can’t get hold of anyone at the SSA in order to rectify their respective issues. Many who have called Social Security’s 800 number generally are put on hold for up to an hour and often just give up. Others who try to log on to SSA’s online account sometimes get a message that reads “account has been suspended.” If they try to call again, they are back at square one.

Pandemic Fallout

Unsurprisingly, it’s the nearly two-year-long coronavirus pandemic that is to blame.

“The Covid-19 pandemic prompted the Social Security Administration to pivot to mostly phone and online services starting on March 17, 2020. Since then, the agency’s more than 1,200 field offices have offered limited in-person services by appointment only. Customers have often had to submit paperwork by mail,” CNBC notes.

“Those processes have not always been smooth, the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General has found. Specifically, the agency needs to improve its timeliness and efficiency with regard to processing mail, including original documents provided as proof of eligibility, an investigation found,” CNBC continues.

There is, however, much-needed good news coming in the near future, as SSA field offices are expected to reopen to the public in early April. In the meantime, the SSA is advising people who need help to start with the agency’s website.

“As we expand in-person availability, we strongly encourage the public to continue to go online at, call us for help if they cannot complete their business online, and schedule appointments in advance,” an SSA spokesperson said, per CNBC.

Addressing Budget Issues

For Nancy Altman, the president of Social Security Works, this is the perfect time to assess and correct the “draconian budget cuts” seen within the SSA and its field offices.

“Between 2010 and 2021, SSA’s operating budget shrank by 13 percent even as the number of beneficiaries grew by 22 percent … Those draconian budget cuts led to an unavoidable decline in service, despite the best efforts of a dedicated workforce,” Altman wrote in a recent op-ed in The Hill.

“Between 2010 and 2018, SSA closed 67 field offices across the country. At the other offices, operating hours were shortened and often staff reduced. People were forced to wait a year or more for hearings to determine eligibility for Social Security disability benefits, with nearly 110,000 Americans dying while waiting for a hearing,” she continued.

“That was the state of Social Security’s customer service prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, field offices have been shuttered for nearly two years for everything but dire emergencies. This was the right thing to do to keep beneficiaries and workers safe, but it has made it even more difficult for Americans to claim their earned benefits… The pandemic has made crystal clear the importance of the field offices,” Altman concluded.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters