AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Waits get worse at Social Security offices

Congress in action:

Just as the wave of Boomers began hitting retirement age in 2011, Congress started decreasing funding for the Social Security Administration.

If, like my family, you have had to straighten out a Social Security issue, here's the result. Unanswered calls, limited appointments, crowded lobbies and long waits at Social Security offices,

The watchdog agency over Social Security reported last year that Social Security offices were open to the public only 27 hours per week, rather than the previous 35 hours. Apparently, the staff was OK with that. The report says that their morale improved because they had more time to process claims and do other work without interruption. Public morale, however, was a different matter.

The report said that average public wait times increased, though you might have reason to suspect the numbers it cites. In July 2011, the average at Social Security offices was just over 14 minutes, it says; In November 2013, the wait had more than doubled. Results may vary.

Social Security urges people to call to resolve issues, but that doesn't always work. After a death in my family, a call to Social Security resulted in more than an hour on hold, only to be told that an office visit would be required and no appointments were available.

At the office, there was a two-hour wait to see the first worker. It was another two hours before the issue could be wrapped up.

Don't look for the situation to improve. The GAO reported in 2013 that a surge in benefits application is expected as more members of the baby boom generation hit retirement age.

Here are the hours for the Social Security office in Atlanta, in case you need to make a visit: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays. Fridays, the office may be less busy, it advises.

And keep this web address handy, if you want to file a service complaint with Social Security: http://socialsecurityhop.com/comment/4286/Filing-service-complaint

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.