Friday, May 16, 2008



You can't ever get through on the phone to the Social Security Office

It's one of the most common complaints from individuals who file for social security disability or SSI: never being able to get through on the phone line to the social security office. Over the last few years, I have spoken to hundreds of claimants who said they needed to ask a question regarding their SSD claim or SSI claim, or needed to report information to the claims representative handling their case---but could never get past a busy phone signal.

This was my advice to them: Try to call very early in the day (and, hopefully, get the jump on everyone else who is calling) or try to call around 4:00 PM when the day is winding down. In fact, my wife (a former disability examiner also) who is a social security field office claims representative says that 4PM may be an especially good time to call (however, she tends to return her calls very quickly, so this may not apply to all social security employees).

How hard is it to get through on the phone line to a social security office. A blog by attorney Charles Hall recently posted information provided by Senator Max Baucus who stated at a Senate Finance committee hearing that individuals in his state of Montana routinely failed to get anything more than a busy signal for weeks on end. In fact, a survey conducted in 2006 found that callers to social security offices got a busy signal fifty-one percent of the time.

Is Montana unusual in this regard? Not at all. I have found this to be the case with every social security office I have ever tried to call on behalf of a disability claimant. The answer to the problem, of course, is what I've stated several dozen times on this blog---SSA needs to have a budget large enough to allow them to properly staff their operations. Critics to this approach will typically reply with "Well, your first thought shouldn't be to throw money at it. Better organization is probably the better approach". To which I say, bull hockey (that's a euphemism for something else, obviously).

Individuals who have never worked in the disability system tend to assume that all federal agencies are awash with resources and are full of lazy government workers.

But that's a complete myth when it comes to the social security administration. The real truth is that SSA employees are seriously understaffed and overworked and it is to their credit that they can still perform their jobs as well as they do in an employment environment where workers who quit or retire are often not replaced.

To wrap up, though, this is what I tell people who can never get through on the phone to social security, yet urgently need to speak with someone there. Go there in person. Nothing will replace the efficiency of doing that. Yes, you may have to wait for quite a while in the waiting room. But it certainly beats getting busy signals for days on end and then playing phone tag with left messages.





Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog



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