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Retirement Planning > Social Security

Social Security Lays Out Plan to Deal With Long Lines

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What You Need to Know

  • Wait times outside some Social Security offices have led to people waiting in line overnight and fainting in the heat, according to news reports cited by lawmakers.
  • Field offices have been closed for two years due to COVID, leading to a crush of people who need in-person service, the acting commissioner says.
  • The agency is moving more resources to busier offices and trying to make the wait more comfortable, she says.

Acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi has released an action plan on how SSA will address long lines at some offices around the country — which have led to some individuals lining up overnight and others fainting in the heat.

Kijakazi, responding to an Aug. 16 request by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Texas that cited these incidents, said she shares the lawmakers’ concerns regarding visitors waiting for service outside Social Security field offices.

“After two years of field offices being closed to most visitors, many people are in urgent need of in-person service,” Neal and Brady said in a letter.

Kijakazi responded on Aug. 30 that SSA has “taken steps to improve service to people waiting outside our offices, which is often caused by physical distancing” rules that remain in place.

Local offices, Kijakazi said, “are working hard to help people who need our services.” SSA is “updating our physical distancing policy for the public, which we expect will significantly address the concerns you raise. We will let you know as soon as that change is in place.”

Most Social Security services, Kijakazi pointed out in her letter, “do not require a visit to an office.” Applying for benefits and many other services can be accomplished online and over the phone, she said.

“Throughout the pandemic, millions of people have successfully used our secure and convenient online services and received help by phone,” Kijakazi said. “People who have access to the internet should first try our online services before calling us or visiting an office.”

Since reinstating walk-in service in April 2022, weekly data “reveal a very low percentage of our more than 1,200 field offices experienced lines of 40 or more visitors,” Kijakazi said.

To date, 216 separate offices had multiple occurrences of 40 people waiting at 9 a.m. However, the numbers are much lower at 3 p.m.

For the week ending Aug. 19, 87 offices had 255 occurrences at 9 a.m. while 4 offices had 7 occurrences at 3 p.m., she said.

SSA, Kijakazi said, has taken a number of steps to address the lawmakers’ concerns about maintaining the health and safety of visitors waiting in lines outside Social Security offices, including:

  • Increasing in-person staff and service options to reduce waiting times at the busiest offices;
  • Assigning some workloads to other offices, to free up the busiest offices for in-person service;
  • Reconfiguring waiting areas to allow more people to enter climate-conditioned waiting areas; and
  • Providing outdoor canopies, fans and access to bathrooms and water fountains for those waiting outside of offices in the heat.


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