24 Nov Social Security Planning to Reopen Offices in 2022
The Covid-19 pandemic forced the Social Security Administration to close 1,200 of their field offices and halt in person services for nearly 20 months. This month, the administration has announced that they will be reopening their offices as early as January of 2022.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced its plan to begin reopening their field offices. The administration has begun preparing its staff to return for in person work as early as January 3rd, 2022.
The offices closed on March 17th, 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All services offered by the SSA have been remote since the closing, with exceptions for critical cases.
Impact of Online Services
In 2019, prior to the shut down, Social Security’s offices had 43 million visitors. Beneficiaries of Social Security range from disabled workers, to lower income individuals, to the elderly. Some recipients cannot afford the technology needed for remote services. Some are unable to work the necessary devices, and some live in rural areas with limited access to internet services.
Since their offices went remote, Medicare and retirement benefits have not been impacted. Unfortunately, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) have been impacted by the switch to remote. In 2020 there was a drop in benefits awards, SSI was down 18% and SSDI was down 10%. This drop can be attributed to people having a lack of access to the internet or internet devices.
A study reports, if benefit awards continued at pre-pandemic levels for SSI and SSDI, 500,000 more people would be receiving benefits.
The SSA recognizes that remote services and information is not accessible for all beneficiaries. They plan to implement a reentry plan to address the issue.
The SSA has created their reentry plan for returning to the office. Those with more senior positions will be returning starting December 1st, 2021. Regular employees will be returning January 3rd, 2022.
The push to return to the offices is mainly in part due to those who are unable to receive services remotely. A spokeswoman from the SSA, Nicole Tiggemann, stated “We know that those (remote) options do not work for everyone. In order to improve service, especially for people who have had difficulty reaching us during the pandemic, Social Security will begin implementing the reentry process agency-wide as soon as possible, including taking steps to increase in-person accessibility.”.