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2 Years After Closing Offices, Social Security Schedules Tentative Reopening

  January 25, 2022 | By Arthur Delaney, HuffPost

March 30 would be more than two years after the original shutdown, not to mention much later than public schools and many other basic government services resumed operations following their initial shutdowns.

Republicans have called for an immediate reopening and criticized the Social Security Administration’s limited in-person services, which require appointments that aren’t easy to arrange.

“This is a challenge for many individuals, especially seniors in rural areas, who do not have reliable telephone or internet access,” a group of Senate Republicans said in a December letter to Social Security’s acting commissioner, Kilolo Kijakazi. “Of additional concern is the impact the closed field offices have on individuals who qualify for benefits but are discouraged from applying for them.”

The office closures have had a real impact on people’s lives. The number of applications for disability insurance, for instance, fell from 2 million before the pandemic to 1.8 million in 2020, while benefit awards tumbled 10% that year and 11% in 2021.

“Claims have been decreasing for many years, but that drop got much steeper during the pandemic,” said Stacy Cloyd, director of policy for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives.

Cloyd did not fault the agency for closing its offices in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 860,000 Americans, with a disproportionate impact on the elderly and people with health issues.

“Having the field offices operate the way they’ve always been operating was understandably not an option,” Cloyd said.

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