Sometimes Social Security seems all about waiting. Claimants wait months for their hearings. If denied, many then wait more months for a decision from the Appeals Council. And even those who have been awarded benefits wait to have their questions answered or concerns addressed. A recent article in the New York Times reported on the number of local field offices that have been closed (67) since 2010. The closures have resulted in less access to field offices and longer wait times in the remaining offices and on SSA’s toll-free line. The average wait time to see a claims representative in a field office was 26.5 minutes in Fiscal Year 2018, which was 37% higher than 2010. Wait times on the toll-free line were almost as long. And 15% of callers to the toll-free line got a busy signal.
SSA and others blame reductions in the agency’s operating budget at a time when the number of beneficiaries rose 17 percent. But according to agency spokespersons, the budget is increasing again, and SSA is working to modernize its I.T. infrastructure, in the hopes of addressing customer service needs.