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Long Lines at Social Security Offices Not Going Away Anytime Soon

  • Published: 2010-08-28 : Author: Schwartzapfel Truhowsky Marcus P.C
  • Synopsis: If you have called your local Social Security office and gotten a busy signal, you are not alone.

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If you have called your local Social Security office and gotten a busy signal, you are not alone.

If you have called your local Social Security office and gotten a busy signal, you are not alone. According to a report issued recently by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than half of all people who called a Social Security field office in 2008-2009 were met with a busy signal.

Those who decided to make a trip in person to their local office didn't fare much better: 3 million people wait over an hour for service.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for everything from handing out Social Security cards to paying out federal retirement and disability benefits. In the past, the SSA handled around 8 to 9 million claims each year.

However, there has been a dramatic increase in claims over the last couple of years, with the number of claims handled by the SSA jumping up to 11 million in 2009. According to SSA estimates, the number of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, Social Security disability, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims are expected to increase by 14% over the next 10 years.

SSA Claims Expected to Rise Over the Next 10 Years

The increase in the SSA's workload largely is attributed to the aging baby-boomer population filing claims for disability and retirement benefits. However, the poor economy also has played a part in the increase in claims as more Americans in general are relying on federal benefits to make ends meet.

Recognizing that the increase in claims is not going to decrease anytime soon, the federal government authorized the SSA to hire more people and provided funding to the agency for this purpose as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. As a result, the agency hired more than 3,000 new employees, bolstering its total staffing size to more than 66,000.

This influx in new employees, however, has not been enough to meet the increased workload facing the SSA. In 2009, the agency's field office provided service to a record 45.1 million customers. When polled, 95% of field office managers said they still needed at least one more employee in their office to meet customer service demands while 71% of managers reported needing a minimum of three additional employees.

The SSA's staffing needs are going to get worse. 22% of the current SSA workforce will be eligible to retire by 2013. This number jumps to 41% by 2018. The SSA will lose its most experienced employees to retirement: 38% of the agency's supervisors currently are eligible to retire and by 2020, 66% of supervisors will reach retirement age. Accordingly, the agency must hire and train new employees to fill these positions in addition to the staff needed to meet increased demand.

SSA Has Yet to Address Challenges

The GAO is not sure if the answer to the customer service delivery problems at the SSA is to hire more people, restructure the agency, or some combination of the two.

In January 2009, the GAO asked the SSA to file a report detailing how the agency proposed to handle the increased workload and what additional resources, if any, were necessary to meet these needs. The SSA, however, never filed that report.


Any person who recently has filed for benefits or called their local Social Security office can tell you that something needs to be done. Americans are waiting record amounts of time to have their benefits claims processed and when they call for an update on the status of their claims, they have a 50% chance of not reaching anyone.

While there may be little that anyone can do about the amount of time it takes the SSA to process their claim, individuals can ensure the least amount of waiting time by completing Social Security disability forms correctly. Particularly for disability benefits, it is important to provide all of the information asked for to make the claims process run as smoothly as possible.

For more information on filing disability claims or appealing a denial of benefits, contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney today.

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