Social Security offices are reopening this week. How to reduce your wait time

Personal finance

VALERIE MACON | AFP | Getty Images

Social Security beneficiaries soon will have one more way to seek assistance from the government agency as local offices are slated to reopen this week.

Starting Thursday, April 7, the Social Security Administration will restore in-person services, including for people who do not have appointments, acting Social Security commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi announced on Monday.

The reopening marks a major milestone for the government agency, which mostly shuttered in-person services after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago.

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During that time, the Social Security Administration pivoted mostly to online and phone services. However, many beneficiaries have complained about long waits on the agency’s 800 number. Moreover, government inspections have highlighted the fact that the agency lacks formal processes for processing mail, which has caused delays for some applications and services.

Even as offices reopen, people should still reach out online or by phone first, according to Kijakazi.

“To avoid waiting in line, I strongly encourage people, who can, to use our online services at www.socialsecurity.gov, call us and schedule appointments in advance rather than walking in without an appointment,” Kijakazi said. “Phone appointments can save you a trip to a busy office.”

If you show up at a Social Security office without an appointment, you may experience delays or longer wait times.

The offices tend to be busiest first thing in the morning, early in the week and early in the month, according to Kijakazi.  ”People may want to plan to visit at other times,” she said.

If you visit a Social Security office, you will be expected to comply with masking and physical distancing requirements. The agency also asks that visitors monitor their health for Covid-19 symptoms.

Go online first

The Social Security Administration emphasizes that people who are seeking help or more information should first try the agency’s website before calling or making an in-person office visit.

Services are available online at www.socialsecurity.gov. By also creating a My Social Security account, people can access personalized services that enable them to request a replacement Social Security card or SSA-1099 tax form, start or change direct deposits or print or download a benefit verification letter.

When to call

If you choose instead to use the agency’s 800 number, you may still experience delays, due to a transition to a more modern phone system that is underway.

However, there are times when you may have more luck getting through, such as before 10 a.m., after 4 p.m. or later in the week. Wait times also tend to be shorter later in the month.

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