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People waiting at social security offices face long lines in the sweltering heat

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People stand in line at a Social Security office in Pasadena, California.

Mario Anzuoni | Reuters

People waiting long to serve in the field offices of the Social Security Administration had to face another difficulty this summer – intense heat.

That prompted the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee send a letter on Tuesday to the Social Security Administration asking it to take action to meet the safety needs of people seeking personal assistance.

“While most SSA field offices are able to assist visitors, in some locations people stand for hours in the heat with no guarantee that their needs will be met,” wrote Reps. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Kevin. Brady, Texas, in a letter addressed to Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

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Neal is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Brady is the GOP leader.

The letter detailed the inconvenient situations faced by people seeking help, citing media reports, including elderly or disabled people waiting for more than six hours at temperatures close to 100 degrees. The conditions caused one person in Texas to pass out, lawmakers said, while others in Florida slept outside the night before to secure spots in line the next morning. In some cases, people had to return for several days to meet their needs.

“We strongly urge SSA to take additional steps to address the security needs of individuals seeking field office services,” Neal and Brady wrote.

Long waits for service in person, by phone, and by mail

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, left, holds a Simple, Fair Postcard Tax Return card next to House Rep. Richard Neal, R-Mass., during a markup hearing in Washington, D.C., November 6, 2017. Mr.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The field office is waiting for the federal agency to officially reopen in April after it largely closed to in-person visits in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that began in 2020.

Those who seek help also have complained about the long wait when calling the agency’s 800 number. Meanwhile, the Social Security Office of the Inspector General also called on the agency eliminate mail processing inefficiencieswhich resulted in a backlog in the processing of some applications.

Complaints about the long wait did not come as a surprise to Richard Fiesta, executive director of the grassroots advocacy organization the Retirees Alliance, who said he had heard stories similar to those detailed in the letter.

He said the delays can be attributed to a series of events that happened several years ago. That includes closing Social Security field offices, which are now down to about 1,200 from more than 1,600. The number of people reaching retirement age has risen sharply as the baby boomer population ages. The Covid-19 pandemic has further complicated the challenges facing the Social Security Administration.

“Trying to get services for the public from Social Security has been very brutal,” Fiesta said.

The fiscal year 2023 budget provides an additional $1.8 billion over last year’s request, which is specifically aimed at improving social welfare services in the field, telephone communications and public services for people with disabilities.

“It’s a positive,” Fiesta said. “We hope Congress will pass it.”

“Plan ahead and do as much research as possible”

Getting prompt and reliable service from a program funded by workers’ compensation should be a given, Fiesta said.

For now, there are steps people seeking care can take to try to minimize wait times.

“Plan ahead and do as much research as you can about what questions you will have,” Fiesta said.

Trying to get services for the public from Social Security was very brutal.

Richard Fiesta

executive director of the Alliance of Pensioners

Before visiting Social Security offices, people should still apply online or by phone first, Kiyakazi urged earlier this year offices began to reopen.

“To avoid standing in line, I strongly advise people who can, to use our online services at www.socialsecurity.govcall us and schedule appointments ahead of time instead of walking in without an appointment,” Kiyakazi said in a statement. “Telephone appointments can save you a trip to a busy office.”

Also keep in mind that if you show up at Social Security without an appointment, you may experience delays or longer wait times.

It can also help to schedule your visits or phone calls for hours or days when Social Security offices typically see less traffic. Offices tend to be busiest in the morning, at the beginning of the week and at the beginning of the month, according to Kiyakazi.

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