A new report from the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has found that there were indeed major deficiencies in the agency’s processing of U.S. mail during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
It added that the SSA “needs to improve its ability to timely process incoming and outgoing mail, noting the Agency’s reliance on manual processing.” The report offered recommendations to improve the SSA’s performance, which include more reliance on software or equipment to reduce manual processes.
In response to the pandemic, the SSA limited in-person services at its field offices and encouraged customers to use its online and telephone options. Due to this, the required documents, previously hand-delivered by in-office customers, had to be physically mailed to SSA offices.
“This significantly increased the volume of U.S. mail to SSA facilities at a time when approximately 90 percent of SSA staff were working remotely, and onsite staff was limited by occupancy restrictions,” OIG’s release stated.
CNBC wrote that since the report’s findings, all of the backlogs of unprocessed mail have been taken care of, while the agency has also instituted new guidance to improve its handling of future mail.
“The services and programs that SSA provide are critical for the beneficiaries who rely on them, and for other agencies that depend on SSA’s records,” Gail S. Ennis, inspector general for SSA, said in a statement.
“We are pleased that SSA has reportedly improved some of the issues identified in our interim report and hope that SSA continues to improve its handling of documents and mail processing,” she continued.
Meanwhile, seniors were on the receiving end of more good news recently when CBS News reported that millions of Social Security recipients are currently on track for a nearly 11 percent cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for next year, according to an analysis from the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
“If inflation continues at its current pace—the cost of goods and services in May accelerated to 8.6%—seniors could receive a COLA hike of 10.8% in early 2023,” the news outlet wrote. But “if inflation grinds to a halt over the final months of 2022, seniors would receive a COLA increase of 7.3%.”
The Senior Citizens League has stated that persistently high inflation has caused a 40 percent loss in the purchasing power of Social Security benefits since 2000. In March 2021, the figure was ten percentage points lower.
“That’s the deepest loss in buying power since the beginning of this study by the Senior Citizens League in 2010,” Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare policy analyst at the Senior Citizens League, said in a statement.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance 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.