When the Covid-19 pandemic arose, Social Security closed all of its offices to the public. They shifted the work being done in those offices into the homes of their workers. Now that the pandemic looks to endure for the foreseeable future, what does this hold for Social Security offices?
Not Open For Business
While other federal departments have begun to interact with the public in person again, Social Security has been slow to reopen. At present, there is no plan to unlock the doors at Social Security offices soon. I suspect that Social Security's locations will stay shuttered through the middle f 2022. Interestingly, the now-fired Social Security Commissioner, Andrew Saul, had ordered an end to work at home rules for Social Security workers in November of 2019--a notably poorly time move.
Are Workers Ready And Willing To Return?
One question will be if Social Security employees are ready to return to their offices. Having shed the need to commute, many of these workers may fight hard for the right to continue to work from home. Social Security is always looking for ways to cut costs. Having fewer employees working in fewer offices could help that effort.
A Drop In Applications Is A Warning Sign
But, can Social Security continue to provide high-quality and timely services without having staff at their desks in their cubicles? There are warning signs. One of these is a dramatic drop in applications for Supplemental Security Income or SSI. This is the program for the poorest of the disabled. These are the people who
are likely to have substandard internet access and more need for in-person assistance when applying for benefits. Retirees who lack access to the internet, too, could be affected. This could lead to many aged-Americans not getting the benefits they are entitled to.
Yep, The Scammers Are In On This
No surprise, the scammers have noticed that Social Security is conducting business via telephone. This has lead to an increase in
fraudulent schemes surrounding Social Security benefits.
So, what to do? The New York Times ran an article with specific advice. In general, the best you can do until Social Security reopens is to be cautious and be patient. Social Security workers hate returning calls. If they do answer, three different workers could give you three different answers.
It seems that work-from-home plans are here to stay at Social Security, so be prepared for this new reality.