Social Security Offices in Charleston, SC Are Opening Back Up
After nearly a two-year shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,200 Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices opened at the beginning of April. These offices help provide critical support with applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the benefit program for low-income, disabled or older people, in addition to aiding in retirement and Medicare claims. This is a huge relief to millions of Americans who have been awaiting this in-person help for their Social Security Disability claims.
However, as other companies that are beginning to reopen across the country are experiencing, the rush of customers all at once has caused some difficulties. The agency’s toll-free number has been problematic an SSA spokesperson confirmed, with customers getting busy signals or abrupt disconnections the phone systems are expected to increase in demand.
SSDI and SSI systems have been majorly backlogged due to the lack of the workforce and application processing delays. According to Reuters, these are dire circumstances for a large number of low-income and disabled Americans, notes Stacy Cloyd, director of policy and administrative advocacy for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, a specialized bar association for attorneys and advocates.
“People are dying waiting for decisions, going into debt, or they’re unable to access medical care” she said.
About 64% will have their initial application denied and many will begin the long appeal process to a hearing. That’s an average projected wait time of 747 days in total – more than two years. About 50,000 others have appealed their hearing denial to the Appeals Council and will wait another seven months, estimates Allsup, a nationwide provider of SSDI representation and veterans disability appeals services.
“SSA serves millions of people through its field offices every year. ‘Walk ins’ can expect long lines and those who schedule a field office appointment by telephone should be prepared to wait weeks or months for their in-person visit,” said T.J. Geist, Principal Advocate for Allsup. “Since March 2020, people seeking SSDI benefits faced more obstacles than ever when navigating the program. The SSA’s web-based ‘self-service’ approach through this unfamiliar and sometimes subjective process can be intimidating for many.
Another setback for former workers seeking help obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is the lack of staffing the now open offices have, which is creating wait times and expanding long lines. Hiring tactics have been frozen due to significantly lower operating budgets than expected. Due to new Pandemic guidelines and policies, some offices are limiting the number of workers, and others allowed into the given office space at any given time. Retirees are being recruiting to come temporarily help crowd control at office locations.
Social Security pays benefits to children of deceased workers (who earned enough credits to be insured), as well as widows over 60, which make up survivor benefits. Creating cause for concern is the difficulty of getting help from the agency during the shutdown to survivor claims for children, because they have not risen at a pace that reflects the number of deaths due to COVID-19 among parents.
Yet when asking SSA how they are going to handle this influx of claims and requests, the SSA’s Hinkle said “Our employees are dedicated to serving the public and are up to the job at hand. Our message to the public is to first use our online services to conduct business with the agency, call us for help if they cannot complete their business online, and schedule appointments in advance.”
Contact Lowery Law Group at email@example.com or call (843) 991-0733. There is no fee for a free consultation regarding your claim. Lowery Law Group is experienced in handling cases in South Carolina as well as Georgia.