It is no secret that applying for Social Security Benefits has always been hard. However, for nearly two years now, the Social Security Administration’s 1,200 field offices have been closed. This has slowed down the ability of disabled Americans from getting their benefits.
Prior to the shutdown
Before the SSA shutdown their field offices, they served over 40 million U.S. citizens. Often, those with disabilities that most-need walk-in and on-demand services from the SSA used these field office locations. In addition, this has been especially bad for those that have zero or low income and limited English proficiency, as well as those experiencing housing instability. All of these populations were the primary users of these field offices.
Inability to access SSA services
Since these offices have been closed, millions have been unable to file their initial application, appeal denials or even correct bureaucratic errors. This has led to historically low levels of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income disability benefit awards.
By the numbers
When compared to fiscal year 2019, FY 2021 has seen a 25% decline in disability awards to disabled citizens and their family members. This translates into 280,000 people who did not get SSI benefits and 270,000 who did get SSDI awards in 2021. Even the SSA admits this decline is a major issue.
According to their own numbers, in just one month of their field office closures, applications dropped between 32% to 55%, depending on the type of application they analyzed. And, this decline seems to be increasing. In September alone, SSDI awards were down 34% and SSI awards were down 42%.
For those in San Diego, Rancho Bernardo, Del Mar and California, generally, that need SSI and SSDI benefits, this news means they likely need help. Reportedly, field offices will begin, at least partially, reopening next year. But, for those that need benefits, they need them now, which means they will often need to call an attorney or some other professional.