The Social Security Administration (SSA) this week announced it plans to expand hours at its field offices nationwide. A field office that’s usually open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will now remain open until 4 p.m on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Restoring Social Security office hours is a necessary step to bring Americans closer to their hard-earned benefits and to continue providing a full range of face-to-face services. We hope this is the beginning of a trend by SSA and Congress to provide needed resources to rebuild the field office network and to reopen the 64 offices that closed in the last 3 years and the 500 closed part time contact stations that service rural America. To effectively serve the public during the extended hours, SSA needs to immediately put more resources into field office staffing and Congress needs to provide additional resources to SSA for staffing and maintaining a vigorous community based field office infrastructure.
The budget cuts that led to the office closures hurt Social Security beneficiaries. Americans should not have to travel far distances or wait in long lines to access benefits they spent a lifetime earning. SSA now has 11,000 fewer staff to handle an increasing workload of retirement and disability applications. The agency is pushing people to apply for benefits online. Most online applications are filled with errors and result in disadvantageous lifetime choices by the public due to the complexities of the SSA rules and regulations. More than 70,000 MySSA accounts have also been subject to some kind of fraud or identity theft. Doing business online with SSA is frequently the equivalent of a crapshoot. The public needs the expert advice and assistance of trained SSA employees to ensure that they are making the most advantageous choices when they file for Social Security benefits.
Congress must fulfill the promise our country has made to millions of claimants and beneficiaries by fully funding SSA so it can reopen closed field offices, hire more customer service staff, and open for enough hours to service all Social Security customers.