Amid ongoing disruptions to Social Security services due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic on staffing levels, U.S. Representative John Katko (R-NY) called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to explain its plans to restrict access during throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 1,200 Social Security field offices across the country, including several locations in Rep. Katko, according to Rep. Katko closed to personal services for more than 20 months due to the ongoing pandemic.
“In downtown New York, I was hearing more and more from Social Security beneficiaries, as well as new applicants, who were unable to access critical Social Security services because of the ongoing closures of SSA field offices,” Representative Katko said on January. 5. “Others trying to access services over the phone have also faced challenges and long wait times.
“These disruptions are unacceptable and the SSA must provide secure ways to deliver these services more efficiently,” the congressman added. “I strongly urge the Social Security Administration to provide a timeline for reopening its field offices and provide information about their efforts to expand services while protecting the health and safety of our communities.” to protect.”
Rep. Katko joined US Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) to reiterate such concerns in a Dec. 22 letter to SSA Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi.
“While we understand the government’s original intent to protect at-risk individuals from COVID-19, we have now been in this pandemic for nearly two years with a wide range of scientifically proven methods of protecting people,” the representatives wrote.
They pointed out that field office closures pose particular problems for voters who must present original documents, such as a driver’s license, birth and death certificates or passports, so that SSA can process their claims. Since offices are closed, individuals cannot show these documents in person, and SSA has generally required them to send these documents to the field office, according to their letter.
“This adds additional stress to individuals with time-sensitive cases, who now have to send their original documents in the mail for an unknown amount of time, with the potential to be lost or disrupt their claims processing,” they wrote.
And while field offices have provided limited services over the phone, Representative Katko and his colleague noted that they’ve received reports of wait times exceeding 45 minutes and cases of phone lines being overloaded by call volume.
They asked Kijakazi to answer several questions related to the SSA’s timeline and plan for the reopening of the Social Security field offices; extending appointments until SSA field offices have reached full capacity; and what precautions SSA will take to ensure the safety of personnel and individuals seeking personal services during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Your prompt response to these important questions will help allay the concerns of many Social Security beneficiaries across the country,” lawmakers wrote.