Nearly a year ago, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced plans to cut the hours open to the public at local field offices nationwide. Offices began closing to the public at 3:00 pm; 30 minutes earlier than normal. In addition, beginning January 2, 2013, Social Security field offices began closing to the public at noon every Wednesday.
Although field offices nationwide were slated to close early to the public, employees were noted to be continuing their work at regular hours in an attempt to focus on the backlog of work. The reduction in hours open to the public was initially justified by noting that many Social Security services did not require a visit to a local office, as they could be done "online."
In a recent announcement from the SSA, local Social Security offices will no longer provide Social Security number print outs or benefit verification letters, stating these requests need to be done online as of February 2014. Additionally, initial applications for Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits must also be completed online. As more and more services are being converted to online only, the Social Security Administration has become less available to the public in need of face-to-face assistance.
The cuts at the Social Security offices leave questions about the future. Jill Hornick, a union representative for the Social Security Administration Field Operations Local in Chicago, Illinois, said she believed the SSA's initiative to reduce services was "aimed at eventually closing its field offices and eliminating jobs."
Whether field offices will close or remain open is left to be seen. Unfortunately, in the meantime, services will continue to be cut and transferred to online-only production. Without ready access to computers, internet, and printers, these resource cuts will hit individuals already struggling to provide even adequate shelter and food for their families the hardest. The elderly who lack either access to or knowledge of computers and printers will undoubtedly suffer greatly, as well.
Source(s): "Important Information: Changes In Certain Services Beginning February 2014." http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10544.pdf
Southtown Star, "Kadner: Social Security plans office service cuts," December 11, 2013.