In the last year and a half, the SSA has attempted to save money by reducing field offices hours.
The expectation was that SSA staff could use the time that the building was closed to complete complex back office tasks, such as continuing disability reviews and redeterminations. A recent audit by the Office of the Inspector General has examined the effects on the FOs since the hours reduction was implemented.
Field offices provide a variety of services to individuals, from helping with obtaining or replacing Social Security numbers to handling some parts of the application process for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). And for better or worse, they are the “face” of the SSA for much of the public.
The problem with the reduction in hours is that it has had no effect on the total amount of work that the field offices actually handle but merely compressed the work in to fewer hours.
This “savings” came with costs. Wait times, both by phone and in person, increased and by November of 2013 had more than doubled to 30.5 minutes. Lines for service in some offices often stretch outside the doors, and available appointment times have been reduced.
Many individuals were very inconvenienced by the Wednesday afternoon closings, and traffic increased on Thursdays, with frustrated and irritated individuals and stressed employees having to cope with the increased traffic. Communication was part of the problem, with many websites and printed material not conveying the correct times the field offices were available.
While some of the complaints may eventually fade as individuals grow accustomed to the hours, it serves as a reminder that if you are applying a benefit like SSDI, an attorney can help with your preparation of your application, reducing your need to resort to field office visits.
Source: SSA.gov, “The Social Security Administration’s Reduction in Field Office Operating Hours,” Office of the Inspector General, August 7, 2014