How to Get in Touch with the Social Security Administration - dummies

How to Get in Touch with the Social Security Administration

By Jonathan Peterson

Copyright © 2018 by AARP. All rights reserved.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has one overriding goal (which may be hard to recognize amid all the rules and complexities): to make sure you end up with the correct benefit amount you’re entitled to under the law. Sometimes reaching that goal may not be simple (though it typically is). But whatever the particulars of your case, you may well end up having to contact the SSA to get what you want.

The SSA runs not only the basic Social Security protections for retirement, survivors, and disability, but also SSI for the poor. The SSA also handles applications for Medicare and the deductions in benefits that pay for Medicare premiums. (SSA doesn’t run the Medicare program itself, however. That job is handled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.)

That’s a lot of territory to navigate — many rules, many technicalities, and many areas that can be confusing. But knowledge is power when it comes to bureaucracy. Understanding the rules for your particular situation helps.

Contacting the SSA isn’t difficult. You can go to a local field office, call a toll-free number, or go online:

  • Field offices: SSA offices are located all over the country — at last count, there were about 1,200 field offices. To find the nearest SSA office, just go to the SSA website, click on “SEARCH,” and put in “find an office”; click on the first result and enter your zip code, and the address of your nearest office will appear, along with the hours it’s open to the public. If you don’t have Internet access, you can find the address of your local SSA office in your local phone book, where all the U.S. government offices are listed, or you can call the SSA (see the next bullet) to inquire.
  • Phone: You can contact an SSA representative toll free at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778). Both numbers are staffed Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Online: The SSA website has a great deal of information on benefits and rules that affect you. You can also find forms you may need and begin applications for certain benefits, including retirement.

Budget cutbacks have reduced the hours of Social Security field offices and in some cases have led to long lines, as well as longer waiting times on the telephone. As of this writing, field offices are open to the public just 31 hours a week. The general schedule in 2017 is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday.

If you’re stretched for time and need to deal with the SSA, it helps to keep a couple of things in mind:

  • Waiting times on the phone and in offices tend to be longer early in the month and early in the week.
  • You can call the toll-free number to make an appointment with a local field office and save time when you arrive.