The coronavirus has completely changed life as we know it. Movie theaters, gyms, restaurants, and even national parks are closing due to social distancing restrictions placed on travel. While many places of business have temporarily closed, many people are wondering what this means for their Social Security benefits, Medicare insurance claims, and the hours of their local offices.
Are Social Security Offices Closed?
Starting March 17, 2020, all Social Security offices were closed to the public for the vast majority of situations. This means that most in-person services have been temporarily suspended. There are more than 1,200 offices across the United States that serve thousands of Americans each day. Social Security offices offer United States citizens a number of services, including coordinating applications and payouts for retirement, disability, and Medicare insurance benefits.
The decision to close was made in an effort to maintain the health of both Social Security employees and all the adults who are served by these offices. The many potential underlying medical conditions and comorbidities that their clients may have make them susceptible to coronavirus infection and potential associated complications.
The waiting times at Social Security offices are often quite lengthy, leaving dozens of people packed together in close quarters for long periods of time. In many cases, those waiting are elderly or disabled individuals, and these individuals are at higher risk for contracting the coronavirus.
Are In-Person Services Still Being Offered?
Receiving assistance in person is only permitted under very few circumstances. These can include dire situations requiring benefit reinstatement or eligibility decisions regarding Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid insurance related to work service. In addition, in- person appointments can be made by individuals who are severely disabled, blind, or have a terminal illness. Those seeking in-person services must call in advance to set up an appointment.
What Does This Mean for My Benefits?
Even though the physical office locations are closed, you do not have to worry about your benefit payments being suspended. Direct deposit payments for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income programs will continue to be made, and physical mailed payments will also continue to be delivered by the United States Postal Service.
Many Social Security officers and employees are currently working from home, which simply means that all standard services are going to only be offered through their toll-free telephone line and their online website. Both of these resources can be used to process new applications, obtain help with benefit claims, check the status of your application, file an appeal, or order a replacement Social Security card.
Because of the closures of physical offices, the Social Security Office is receiving a huge influx of calls in their call center. Due to the longer wait times, the Social Security Office is asking their clients utilize online services that are offered.
Beware of Scammers
Due to the wide uncertainty regarding this pandemic, there are many scammers who are trying to take advantage of unaware Americans. Many scammers are posing as employees of the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, U.S. Treasury Department, and other government agencies.
These scams often take place over the phone, and the scammers may threaten to discontinue your benefits, request a confirmation of your account information to process your check from the stimulus package, or claim that you qualify for a financial relief grant due to the impact of the coronavirus.
Each of these scams, and others as well, will request your personal information, such as your Social Security number, your credit card, or bank account information. Please be aware that no government agency will ever request any of this information over the phone as it is a security breach. Additionally, these government-run programs will not cancel or suspend your benefits without providing you ample notice. In fact, many benefit suspensions have been put on hold due to the offices being closed to the public.