The Social Security Administration recently announced that it will be reopening its Social Security offices to the public on April 7, 2022. This is the first time the SSA has allowed in-person office appointments since COVID first hit the US in Spring 2020. The Social Security Administration will continue to have appointments and hearings virtually in addition to the new in-person availabilities.
What Changes for Social Security Applicants?
Since March 17, 2020, the Social Security Administration has been operating primarily online, allowing very few applicants to make appointments at the office. Starting on April 7th, the Social Security offices will be open to the public without appointment for the first time in two years. Applicants for either Social Security retirement or disability can come in for scheduled appointments or on a first come, first serve basis.
The hope is that with more availability for appointments, Social Security applicants have additional options and reduced wait time when attempting to contact the SSA. There are more than 1,200 SSA field offices across the US, with every state having at least one field office. The Social Security Administration has rehired previously retired employees to ensure field offices have adequate staff. The SSA has also implemented new training policies and is switching to a modern phone system to attempt to reduce wait times.
Keeping Applicants Safe
The Social Security Administration is sensitive to the everchanging COVID-19 situation, and is implementing standard protocols to ensure its offices are as safe as possible once open to the public. Many people who apply for Social Security disability benefits have conditions that may worsen any complications from a COVID infection.
The SSA asks that all applicants to visit the offices in person, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask. The SSA will be implementing social distancing in their offices, as well as ask applicants to only visit their closest Social Security office if they’re feeling healthy.
The Best Way to Make an In-Office Appointment
While Social Security field offices will give disability applicants another option to apply for benefits, the Social Security Administration is still expecting long wait times, especially for those without an appointment. The SSA recommends making a virtual appointment if possible, or by calling the SSA directly. If you would prefer to visit a newly opened field office, you should try to schedule an appointment ahead of time to avoid long wait times.
For those who don’t have an appointment, there are ways to “optimize” your visit to your local Social Security office. The SSA recommends avoiding the offices first thing in the morning, early in the week, and early in the month. One of the biggest reasons why field offices get busy at the beginning of the week and month is due to disability and retirement payment schedules. SSI (Supplemental Security Income) payments are delivered on the first of the month. Anyone missing a payment would likely see a problem with their bank statement in the beginning of the month.
With careful planning and an appointment made ahead of time, you may finally be able to visit the Social Security Administration in person. To make an appointment at your closest Social Security office, you can call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.