So, social security services have changed during the pandemic
Valerie Macon | AFP | Getty Images
The Social Security Agency held virtual meetings with customers last year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and these and other changes could persist, according to Commissioner Andrew Saul.
“Like many companies and organizations, the pandemic has forced us to adapt,” Saul said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“As we look at our work in a new light, we wonder what lessons could improve the service beyond the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
For example, some meetings do not need to be in person, but you may need to send certain documents to administration. To do this, the SSA is testing Dropboxes and Express Appointments so that people can submit these materials.
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For those who just need to replace a lost Social Security card, the agency is testing video appointments. This could continue even after the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, Saul said. Replacement cards can also be requested online using a My Social Security account.
For those denied benefits and seeking appeal, the SSA increased its phone hearings and added online hearings last year. Those who are still waiting for a hearing should schedule a phone or video appointment.
The agency’s telephone communication has become more and more frequent over the past year. The local offices answered 13 million more calls than in fiscal 2019. Waiting times in these local offices also improved to less than three minutes on average, compared to almost 24 minutes in 2019.
The SSA also stepped up services through its 800 phone number, with its agents handling 1.6 million more calls than last year.
The agency also added 6,000 front-line workers.
In addition, hiring and overtime at the state Disability Determination Services increased as pending initial disability claims increased. To cope with this increased number of cases, officials have reduced the number of ongoing disability checks they carry out.
“The [Disability Determination Services] have reduced the number of people waiting for a decision on initial disability claims by approximately 100,000 cases since the peak of pending cases in August 2020, “Saul said.
You can also find expanded online resources through My Social Insurance or the Pension Portal.
If the SSA continues to incorporate more teleworking into its processes, it could make sense in the future to reduce office space and free up money to hire more staff and improve online services, Saul said.