Key Point: As everyone who lived throughout it knows, 2020 was not a good year for the mail. A combination of coronavirus-related delays and government cuts led to delays to the mail that was worth more than anything in recent memories.
And now, according to a report by the Social Security Administration, things were especially bad for Social Security recipients, with reports of everything from important documents to Social Security benefits themselves getting stuck in limbo.
The interim report, from the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General, is titled “The Social Security Administration's Processing of Mail and Enumeration Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
“SSA has no performance metrics and does not maintain management information on the volume of incoming, outgoing, or pending mail. Consequently, the Agency does not have sufficient information to enable it to adjust staffing levels to ensure mail is processed timely,” the report said. “SSA lacks comprehensive policies and procedures to track and return original documents— including driver’s licenses, birth certificates, passports, and naturalization documents—that customers provide as proof of eligibility for benefits or a Social Security number card.”
As a result, the report said, some offices have significant backlogs of documents.
“Some offices had backlogs of unprocessed applications for new or replacement Social Security cards. For example, one field office had 677 unprocessed applications dated as early as July 2020. We also observed a Social Security card center that had over 9,000 unprocessed applications dated as early as May 2021. As a result, individuals have yet to receive their original documents or Social Security number card,” the report continued.
This has also been the case with benefits themselves.
“Some locations had backlogs of remittances or un-negotiated benefit checks.2 For example, one PSC had 247 unprocessed remittances or un-negotiated checks dated as far back as November 2019. Financial institutions are not obligated to cash uncertified checks that are more than six months old, which leaves the Agency at risk of not being able to collect the remittance check funds.”
There was also an issue with the storage of documents.
“While all SSA facilities were locked, some offices stored original documents in unsecure locations, such as desks and bins. In addition, employees at three offices informed us the U.S. Postal Service or special carriers left mail or packages, which may have included original documents or personally identifiable information, outside the offices in publicly accessible areas after business hours and over the weekends.”
The OIG, CNBC reported, is “working with management at the Social Security Administration to address these issues.” Final reports, following up on this interim report, will arrive later this year.
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.