Monday, February 09, 2009

Getting Information about a Disability Claim from Social Security

According to the contents of a letter from the head of the AFGE, or American Federation of Government Employees, individuals who try to call a social security office either cannot speak to a social security employee or, due to low staff, are told to call back later. And this happens 45% of the time.

Is this information correct, or just a little inflated? Actually, I'd be surprised if things were actually going that well in the nation's social security offices.

I remember even five years ago being told by frustrated claimants that they had repeatedly tried to get in touch with the social security office (to request a disability appeal, to report that they were working, to inquire about filing for disability, etc, etc) to no avail. And by repeatedly, I mean many of those claimants had tried calling for several days.

That was five years ago. Things certainly haven't gotten better. Staffing at social security has gotten worse and the workload for social security employees has only piled up higher.

Why has this type of situation been allowed to occur? The last white house administration and Congress are both to blame. Politicians love to get interviewed by newspapers about how they've helped one of their constituents by contacting a hearing office to check the status of a disability claim. After all, that paints them as the white knight. But, when it comes to actually doing what is needed to fix the social security and social security disability system, they tend to go mute.

That's because the fix does not entail a task force, or new technology, or some grandiose restructuring of the social security administration. It simply means hiring enough staff to do the job. And, in today's economy with an ever-growing well of national debt, that is even less likely to happen than it was before.

In a practical sense, what do you do if you need to contact your social security office (to file a disability application, file a disability appeal, etc)?

My answer has always been "go down to the social security office personally". Yes, it may be inconvenient, and, yes, you may have to wait in the lobby for some time. But it will get you the desired result. And it is far better than waiting for several days to get someone on the phone if you have been denied and need to request an appeal.

However, if you are represented on your claim, call your disability representative and ask them for the status of your claim. They may be able to tell you immediately, or they may decide to call social security themselves. Will they have any better luck than you? Possibly. The social security office in their area may allow them to call on a non-public-access line. But, if that's not the case, for lack of a better phrase, it's not your (you the claimant) problem. It's simply part of your representative's job to know what the status of your claim is and to be able to pass that information on to you.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

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