The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of the Inspector General issued a report in December 2016 documenting customer wait times at the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) field offices. “Customer Waiting Times in the Social Security Administration’s Field Offices” -Report Number: A-04-17-50216.
According to the report, SSA administers its programs and services through a network of approximately 1,220 field offices in 10 regions that serve the public throughout the United States. In 2011, SSA began reducing field offices’ operating hours. As a result, as of the date of the review, field offices were opened to the public four hours fewer per week than before SSA made these changes.
According to SSA, the number of open field offices decreased from 1,238 field offices in FY 2010 to 1,219 field offices in FY 2015. Additionally, the number of field office employees declined approximately five percent from 29,114 in FY 2010 to 27,677 in FY 2015.
The total number of people visiting SSA field offices steadily increased between fiscal years (FY) 2006 and 2010. The number of visitors began declining in FY 2011, and declined each year through FY 2015 — so much so, there were approximately 4.7 million fewer visitors to SSA field offices in FY 2015 than in FY 2010.
Despite significant decreases in SSA field office visits from FY 2010 to FY 2015, customer wait times have considerably increased. For all SSA regions, the average wait time increased 37 percent from FY 2010 to FY 2015. In contrast, the New York region experienced a more modest increase of eight percent, falling well below the national average.
The number of visitors to SSA field offices who waited longer than one hour for service also significantly increased from FY 2010 to FY 2015. In fact, for all regions, the number of field office visitors who waited longer than one hour for service increased from 2.3 million visitors in FY 2010, to 4.5 million visitors in FY 2015. That is a substantial 95 percent increase. Additionally, more than 11 percent of all visitors to SSA field offices waited longer than one hour for service in FY 2015. In contrast, only about five percent of visitors waited longer than one hour in FY 2010.
The Office of the Inspector General plans to conduct a follow-up review to examine factors affecting slow wait times and how SSA is managing field office wait times.
Thanks to Empire Justice Center paralegal Keith Jensen for summarizing this report, which is available at https://oig.ssa.gov/audits-and-investigations/audit-reports/A-04-17-50216