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Social Security Administration Customer Service Problems (2017)


If you thought it was difficult to get customer service assistance at a retail establishment, try your luck at acquiring help at a Social Security Administration (SSA) field office. If you attempt this, then you will find the service at the mall to be extraordinarily expedient in comparison to SSA. Of course, the important difference is that you have already paid in your hard-earned tax dollars to SSA in advance in order to receive poor service. This makes the current situation all the more galling.

The February, 2018, the Office of the Inspector General issued its Audit Report concerning wait times experienced by customers at SSA’s field offices. In Fiscal Year 2016, there were over 22,000 visit to SSA field offices. 1,000 of these visitors waited longer than 6 hours for assistance with 126 visitors waiting longer than 7 hours.

Although the number of customers visiting field offices decreased by 1.5M between 2016 and 2017, assistance wait times have increased. Some specific assistance times include the following:

  • Original or replacement SSNs = 17 minutes
  • New SSD claim = 130 minutes
  • New retirement claim = 79 minutes
  • SSI claim = 101 minutes

Although wait times are less for persons making advance appointments with SSA, persons with appointments still experience wait times of more than one hour.

SSA has sought to explain these problems. It states that it has experienced a three year hiring freeze because of lower-than-expected government funding. During that time, SSA lost 2,973 employees with most of these being experienced workers causing an even greater loss of institutional knowledge. In 2011, SSA began closing field offices. In March, 2015, it shortened work hours at the remaining field offices.

To assist with walk-in customer volume and wait times, some offices are employing self-service kiosks for replacing SSN cards, appealing SSD/SSI denials, requesting retirement benefit estimate statements, and applying for disability, retirement, and Medicare. As of 2/18, there were only 1,929 kiosks in 834 field offices.

What is not mentioned in this report is that most customers require customer assistance to use the kiosks which, again, results in delays to other customers waiting for assistance in matters which cannot be transacted on the kiosks. [This was learned from an individual who worked for SSA in this capacity during 2015 – 2016. This is made worse when the one floating kiosk assisting cannot help persons speaking other languages.]

As there seems to be no relief for the current funding situation, customers can only expect increasing wait times given the impending retirement of experienced personnel over the ensuing years as the Baby Boomer generation moves into retirement.

Posted in Long Term Disability, SSA | Tagged , , , , |


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