Houlahan to Social Security Administration: It’s Time for In-Person Appointments

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) sent a letter to Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) urging her to prioritize the reopening of SSA field offices nationwide and increase capacity for in-person appointments. This effort is a direct result of countless constituent complaints and frustrations with the lack of in-person services.

“One of my top priorities as our Representative is constituent services,” said Houlahan. “So when we heard over and over again how difficult it was for our community members to address their social security needs without in-person operations, we wanted to help. That’s why we’re asking the SSA to accelerate their reopening timeline. We all understand the role the pandemic played in office closures across the country, but if our schools and businesses can operate again, so can our federal agencies. It’s time to open their doors.”

Houlahan’s letter acknowledges the workarounds the SSA created to address issues online or via mail but emphasizes that not all constituents have reliable access to the internet and don’t feel comfortable mailing important documents like birth certificates and passports among other concerns.

Residents of Chester and Berks counties agree:

“As an older person, I find it difficult to use the website,” said Lesley, a Phoenixville area resident. “I had to rely on reaching someone on their phone line. The wait times are too long and that’s really frustrating. I needed help and I needed to talk with a human being to assist me to get an appointment. I felt like I wasn’t heard, and I really needed their help.”

“We recently adopted our daughter from abroad and she has underlying health conditions,” said Chad, a Reading area resident. “We needed her Social Security number so she is eligible for medical insurance. The Post Office has had so many problems and we did not want to mail in her original passport and court documents. We were able to get an emergency appointment, but we were told by the SSA agent that we needed a Citizenship Certificate to get the Social Security number. Getting that document would have caused a long delay. We contacted Rep. Houlahan’s office and they were able to clarify with the Social Security office that we had the right documents to get the appointment needed for our little girl. While we were able to finally resolve the issue, everyone should have access to in-person options, not just emergency situations like ours.”

Local SSA office locations include the following:

Social Security Administration
1101 West Chester Pike
West Chester, PA 19382

Social Security Administration
201 Penn Street, Suite #200
Reading, PA 19601

Social Security Administration
80 Robinson Street
Pottstown, PA 19464

Read the full text of the letter below and here.

Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi
Acting Commissioner
Social Security Administration
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21235

Dear Dr. Kijakazi:

I write to express my support for the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) “Phased Reentry Plan” announced November 5, 2021. In particular, I am encouraged by your agency’s intention to begin reopening SSA offices in an effort to improve service for those struggling to access Social Security benefits. As you continue to finalize specific personnel and operational policies to balance the health and safety of your employees with your ability to provide quality services to all Americans, I urge you to prioritize the reopening of SSA field offices nationwide and increase capacity for in-person appointments.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent closure of SSA field offices in March 2020, I have heard from a concerning number of my constituents experiencing difficulties accessing their Social Security benefits, updating immigration and marital statuses, or applying for Social Security cards. Although SSA has established workarounds to handle many of these services over the phone or online, in-person operations are essential for my constituents, especially for those who may lack access to reliable internet or phone service.

For example, per SSA’s guidance, my constituents have sent original documentation through the mail or through SSA drop boxes available at the field offices, including Pennsylvania State IDs, Passports, Permanent Resident Cards, or Certificates of Naturalization or Citizenship. Many of my constituents have shared their frustrations and anxieties about parting with such important original documents, particularly given recent delays in the postal service. By expanding in-person operations to allow for walk-in or on-site appointments, SSA can work directly with individuals to ensure the sensitive documentation is reviewed, processed, and returned safely and securely.

Promptly restoring in-person field operations will greatly improve the quality public services my constituents depend on. With minimal in-person staffing since the pandemic began, SSA’s leadership reported the average time to complete an action at its field offices increased by 20% in Fiscal Year 2020, significantly reducing productivity.1 Furthermore, field offices are now handling three times as many calls compared to pre-pandemic levels, which has challenged staff workloads.2 These challenges are especially evident for my community, where nearly 140,000 beneficiaries depend on their monthly Social Security payments.

Since this pandemic began, businesses, schools, as well as local, state, and federal government offices, have adapted to prioritize safety for employees to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The availability of COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, social distancing, face coverings, staggered work schedules, sanitation, and air purification have made it possible to safely expand in-person work operations, especially for communities like mine as one of the most vaccinated in the entire country. With these developments, as well as President Biden’s Executive Order mandating all Federal employees to be vaccinated, I encourage SSA to accelerate the restoration of in-person field operations in my community so that my constituents can access the vital public services your agency provides.

I recognize the hard work SSA and its staff manage daily, which continues to be vital for my constituents during these challenging times. Thank you for your leadership and commitment to serving my community and keeping our Federal workforce and public safe.


Member of Congress

cc: Grace M. Kim
Deputy Commissioner, Operations

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