As many American businesses and government departments begin reopening their offices, one agency has barely spoken to their plan for reopening: The Social Security Administration. It’s worth noting that the SSA serves our most vulnerable population, and therefore likely hesitates on how to resume the regular course of business safely. They are also, of course, concerned with employee health. While some offices are outfitted with sliding barriers between employee and client, others are not (Ogrysko, 2020).
Serving the Public Safely
On April 24, 2020 Commissioner Andrew Saul stated, “…when we reopen offices to the public, we will provide a safe environment for both the people we serve and our employees”. Federal News Network reported a June 16, 2020 email from Saul claimed, “…the agency is working to procure masks, sanitizer and other supplies while employees continue maximum telework” (Ogrysko, 2020).
Teleworking fortunately allows many of the SSA’s services to remain available online and over the phone. All 1200 field offices have been closed for walk in appointments since March, 2020 (Eisenberg, 2020). The SSA website asks that the public, “…first try to use our online services before calling us”. If help is not available remotely, select offices are taking scheduled, in-person appointments to assist only those in dire need.
Does Teleworking Work?
President of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 215, Rich Couture, reports extreme success with teleworking. Calls to the national 800 number increased by over a quarter million for the month of May when compared to last year. In addition, the wait time for receiving a decision on a hearing dropped by a whopping 134 days. Citing this data, Couture expressed feelings that there is “no hurry” in bringing employees back to their offices (Ogrysko, 2020) . Still, the lack of discussion concerns Union leaders. They fear being left out of the decision making processes, the when and how.
Some may not agree that more service means better, or even good service. In regards to phone calls, Saul himself reported, “unacceptable waiting times — sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes 40 minutes” (Eisenberg, 2020).
It’s normal to feel frustrated with the limitations the COVID-19 pandemic has created. If you find yourself with an unanswered Social Security question, especially related to filing for disability or appealing a decision, please feel free to contact our office via message or calling 419-350-8277. Our knowledgeable attorneys are more than happy to assist you in the application process.
Eisenberg, Richard. (2020, March 24). How to get Social Security help while the agency’s offices are closed. Retrieved July, 16 2020, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-to-get-social-security-help-while-the-agencys-offices-are-closed-2020-03-23
Ogrysko, Nicole. (2020, July 13). SSA remains quiet on reopening after 4 months of employee telework. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://blog.ssa.gov/update-on-social-security-offices/