Commissioner of Social Security Andrew Saul has plans to improve service to beneficiaries in the works. Courtesy photo

As the population of retiring Baby Boomers grows, the financial safety net of Social Security becomes ever more important. As a result, changes to meet the needs of Social Security beneficiaries are being rolled out in the new year.

Changes include extended field office hours and more than 1,000 new hires, according to a newsletter put out by the federal program that provides income for some.

Those eligible for benefits include some: seniors who are retired workers; spouses and children of retired workers; spouses and children of deceased workers; those with disabilities; and some others. Benefits are calculated based on the highest 35 years of income in a retired worker’s lifetime and other factors.

“Improving service is my top priority,” Commissioner of Social Security Andrew Saul said. “Increasing full public service hours at our nationwide network of more than 1,200 field offices is the right thing to do and will provide additional access. The additional hiring of National 800 Number and processing center employees is an important step in the right direction to greatly improve the service we provide.”

As of Jan. 8, field office hours on Wednesdays were extended until 4 p.m. Now, most field offices are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Prior to the change field offices closed at noon on Wednesdays.

“This change restores Wednesday public service hours that were last in place in late 2012,” Saul said in a Dec. 2 web posting.

“In addition to expanding our hours of service, we will be hiring 1,100 front line employees to provide service on the agency’s National 800 Number and in its processing centers,” he said. “We are currently bringing onboard 100 new processing center employees and approximately 500 new teleservice representatives for the 800 Number. An additional 500 hires for the 800 Number will occur later in 2020.”

Last year, the Social Security Administration, an independent federal agency headquartered in Baltimore, had about 63,000 employees across the country.

Saul, himself a senior at 73, was sworn in for a six-year term as commissioner on June 17.

“My plan is rooted in common sense,” Saul said in an open letter to the public dated Nov. 4. “SSA has many departments and over 60,000 employees who perform millions of functions each year. But, whether it is issuing retirement checks, processing disability claims, or providing Social Security cards, our fundamental mission is to ensure timely and accurate service for the public. My plan is to emphasize and restore fundamental public service so that when you call us, we answer timely. When you come to our offices, we serve you timely. When you apply for benefits, you receive a timely answer from us and, if you are approved for benefits, you receive a timely check from us.”

The SSA is also trying to create more awareness about its online services, and advises people to sign up for a secure my Social Security account, at ssa.gov/myaccount

According to an SSA newsletter, “once you create an account, you can review your work history and see an estimate of your future Social Security benefits. We recently made several enhancements and introduced new features to my Social Security. With your personal my Social Security account, you can also:”

• Estimate future benefits with a Retirement Calculator that allows you to compare different retirement dates and include future earnings estimates. This is a new feature.
• Request a replacement Social Security card.
• Check the status of your Social Security application.

If you already receive benefits, you can:

• Get a benefit verification or proof of income letter.
• Set up or change direct deposit.
• Change your address.
• Request a replacement Social Security or Medicare card.
• Get a Social Security 1099 form (SSA-1099)

Many Social Security services are also available by dialing the toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. The SSA also offers many other online resources at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices

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