Editor’s note: This week, Telegram and other newspapers around the country are holding Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information from local, state and federal government agencies. Sunshine Week, a national initiative launched in 2005, educates the public about the importance of public transparency.
Visitors to the Temple Social Security Administration office often find that the building is locked and apparently closed.
Although social security offices around the country have operated throughout the coronavirus pandemic, some local residents have reported problems accessing the agency’s services – services that offer personal appointments on a limited basis.
“In general, we will plan a personal agreement in limited, critical situations,” the Social Security Administration said in a statement. “Limited, critical situations exist when you are without food or shelter, are without medical care or coverage and need to apply for or recover benefits, (or) are currently receiving benefits and have an urgent need for payment to cover expenses … and you can not receive benefits. payment electronically. “
In Temple, appointments with the Social Security Administration office at 511 N. Main St. made by phone at 1-866-593-1341.
But for residents like Jim Graham, it can be difficult to get a representative over the phone.
“They use an automated phone system that goes through various stages before connecting you with anyone,” he told Telegram. “I had to make four or five calls because I kept getting disconnected after waiting in a long queue. It would say, ‘We can not reach your party,’ and then disconnect from you.
Each call, Graham claimed, would last for 10 to 15 minutes before disconnecting.
Although he was eventually able to speak with a representative, he did not qualify for a face-to-face meeting.
“So I had to go over there to hand in a form before they closed at 4pm,” Graham said. “I arrived at 3.45pm and their front door was locked. The security guard eventually locked me in to hand in the form… but I’m still waiting to see if they have changed anything.”
A regional spokesman for the Social Security Administration could not be reached for comment on its pandemic operations after several calls on Friday.
The American rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, said it’s time for the Social Security Administration to expand personal services.
“Workers from industries across Texas have long since returned to work or never left, so it’s time for the SSA to return their services to pre-pandemic levels,” he said in an email. “My staff and I are ready to help any voter who has a problem with a federal agency like this.”
Although most businesses are open, with some requiring masks, the Social Security Office has limited access.
“This decision protects the population we serve – elderly Americans and people with underlying medical conditions – and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” the Social Security Administration said. “If you have a situation that we can not help you with by phone, online, fax or mail, we may be able to schedule an appointment at the office for you.”
With limited personal services under COVID-19 and an increasing number of phone calls, the Social Security Administration encourages individuals to set up a “my Social Security” account online at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we ask the public to first try using our online services before calling us,” the Social Security Administration said. “Through their My Social Security account, people can check personal information and do business with Social Security. The portal also provides links to information about other online services, such as pension applications, disability and Medicare benefits.”
The Social Security Administration says it prioritizes personal identification number services for individuals 12 years of age or older who apply for their first SSN card and individuals who need to update or correct their current SSN information.