Social Security had announced that beginning Aug. 1, anyone in need of benefit verification letters would have to sign up for a personal My Social Security account and have access to a computer and a printer, things that many people don’t have.
There has been much Congressional criticism of Social Security’s decisions to close 64 field offices and 533 mobile offices. In 2013, five million people visited Social Security offices to get necessary verification letters to prove income or retirement status. While public access to computers is available in many community libraries, there are well-known security issues in downloading forms with Social Security numbers from public computers. While providing these verification letters is certainly a necessary service, it increases the services that are required from a diminishing Social Security staff.
The Social Security Administration announced in late July that local Social Security offices would continue to provide benefit verification letters until further notice. Providing services when and where the public needs them remains central to Social Security’s efforts, while continuing to encourage federal, state, and local agencies to take advantage of Social Security’s data exchange programs that can serve customers more efficiently and effectively.
“We appreciate the feedback from members of Congress, our community stakeholders and agency partners. We want to ensure that we meet the needs of our customers in a way that is convenient for them and also cost-effective and secure for all,” Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin stated. “I believe that government agencies can work closer together to assist our mutual customers.”
Over the last few years, Social Security has invested in technology that allows most government agencies and many other organizations to verify their clients’ Social Security benefits electronically without requiring them to visit a local Social Security office.
“We recognize that some members of the public may require in-person assistance and we will have a presence in local communities,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “We also want to ensure that the public is aware that they can access many of our services without making a trip to a local field office.”