Last month, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued an interim report to Acting Social Security Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi regarding the management of mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings of the interim report pose a grim look at how mail operations have been managed in the 16+ months since the Social Security Administration (SSA) suspended most in-person services due to the burgeoning pandemic.
Using information gathered during two individual audits, the OIG has found that Social Security does not have or maintain a system of managing incoming, outgoing, or pending mail. With no performance metric system in place, there is little accountability in ensuring each piece of mail is handled timely and appropriately. The OIG has also identified specific issues of concern including:
- Unprocessed applications for new or replacement Social Security cards dating back as early as July 2020.
- A backlog of remitted benefit checks dated as early as November 2019.
- Hundreds of thousands of unattended to undeliverable pieces of mail.
How does this impact me?
With Social Security still unable to accommodate members of the public with in-person appointments for services such as obtaining a new Social Security card, filing for benefits, or applying for Medicare, they have become reliant on telephone appointments and applicants mailing important documents and applications. With a backlog of unopened and unprocessed mail, much needed Social Security cards, monthly benefits, and health insurance are significantly delayed.
What can I do?
While it is not yet possible to complete an application in your local Social Security office or make an appointment to hand important paperwork to a representative directly, there are steps that you can take to help prevent your application from being delayed due to the overwhelming mail situation at Social Security. To do this, you should:
- Avoid sending original documents such as birth certificates, passports, and naturalization paperwork in the mail, if possible.
- Keep multiple copies of any documents that are sent to Social Security.
- Drop papers off directly at your local Social Security offices, if feasible. All offices have drop boxes that are available to receive documents from members of the public.
- Utilize certified mail or other tracking features to ensure receipt of documents at the appropriate office.
- Use fax or email as a way of providing documents to Social Security instead of mailing them.
It is important to remember that each claim and situation is unique to the individual, and so these suggestions may not work for everyone.
The OIG plans to release a full report by the end of the year. We will continue to watch as additional information is published and any progress is made on Social Security’s end.
Nothing in this post is intended as advice or a suggestion to elect or not elect to claim benefits of any kind, including Social Security benefits, nor is it intended as financial advice in any way. The decision to claim benefits is a personal one that is contingent upon each individual’s unique circumstances.