>Cuts to Social Security Field Offices Means Increased Wait Times for Seniors
With millions of baby boomers nearing retirement age, Social Security field offices are getting busier. Recent closures of several dozen field offices has made the process of filing for retirement benefits even more time-consuming for seniors.
According to a report released on June 18 by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, the administration has closed 64 field offices since 2010. This is the largest amount of closures in a five-year period in the history of the agency. They have also closed 533 temporary mobile offices, which serviced more remote locations.
In addition to the closures, hours have been drastically reduced at the 1,245 field offices that remain open. According to DailyFinance.com, a Social Security official was expected to testify at a hearing held by the Senate Special Committee on Aging on the same day the report was released.
The committee’s chairman, Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, said, “Seniors are not being served well when you arbitrarily close offices and reduce access to services.”
He added, “The closure process is neither fair nor transparent and needs to change.”
The amount of people receiving Social Security retirement benefits has increased by nearly 20 percent over the past ten years, with nearly 47 million seniors currentlyreceiving benefits. In addition to those receiving retirement benefits, 11 million people are receiving Social Security disability benefits. This is an increase of 38 percent since 2004.
The Social Security Administration has made several improvements to their website in recent years, and has been encouraging those receiving benefits to access Social Security services online. According to the agency, nearly 50 percent of all retirement applications in 2013 were filed online.
Despite the updates to their website, it is still difficult for many people to access Social Security services online. Many people seeking benefits don’t have access to reliable internet service. With the closure of several field offices, there has been an increase in wait times on the agency’s toll-free help line as well. The Aging Committee is urging the agency to take these factors into account prior to closing more field offices.