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Social Security expands public services, but field offices to remain closed until spring

  January 29, 2022 | By Lisa Rein, The Washington Post

SSA spokesman Hinkle said other efforts also are underway to improve access in the field. The staff has almost tripled the number of 15-minute in-office appointments it provides for “dire need” circumstances. The agency said it continues to modify procedures to eliminate red tape, by allowing applicants to use some secondary evidence and more online forms, and to attest in lieu of signatures in some cases.

But advocates continue to point to serious problems created by the field office closures, particularly the plummeting number of people eligible for aid but not applying because the system is now too complicated.

Despite the nosediving number of claims, the state agencies that handle medical exams for Social Security are on track to end January with 1 million pending applications, according to an analysis of federal data by Stacy Cloyd of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. That is a 27 percent increase from the same time two years ago.

Attrition, the shift to remote work and a shortage of physicians willing to see claimants in person are causing the delays, advocates said.

The advocates have a meeting scheduled with agency officials Jan. 31 to discuss a range of proposals they have made to halt punitive policies affecting disabled and elderly beneficiaries until person-to-person service fully resumes.

Their most significant request is to resume the suspension of a process called continuing disability reviews.

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