In the midst of several local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices being closed down throughout the nation, West Palm Beach, Fla. is no exception. Recently the West Palm Beach office was facing criticism about the office being closed and claimants needing to drive to other offices, such as Delray Beach, Port St. Lucie, or even Plantation. The office has been reopened but then closed again due to other issues. However, when the office was open, it was facing criticism regarding the wait times.
It is not unusual for an individual to wait for two, three, or even four hours to see a representative in West Palm Beach. For most people, waiting in line is annoying but not necessarily a big deal. But when you consider that the individuals who are waiting in line are trying to apply for disability benefits, that wait may be putting a huge physical or psychological strain on the person. For individuals suffering from social anxiety, just leaving home is a huge obstacle. Then asking them to wait in line in a public office for two hours is an even bigger deal for them. Or how about an individual suffering from congestive heart failure that frequently has chest pains without even moving? These wait times might act as a deterrent or barrier for some individuals who want to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Of course, there are other ways to apply for disability benefits, including completing an online application or making a phone appointment with the local SSA office. But there are two potential downsides to not having an in-person application done. First, you cannot apply for SSI over the computer. That either needs to be done in person or over the phone. Second, you are taking the human element away from the application process and making it more automated. If an individual would like an in-person meeting to apply for Social Security they should be able to have that in-person meeting. It seems the Social Security Administration is skirting away from doing things in person and “pushing” people to do more either online or over the phone. We have even seen a huge increase in video hearings, which takes away a huge human element to the decision process. The rationale behind a video hearing is that the hearing will be scheduled sooner thus a decision is made sooner. But is that really the best way to make a decision regarding someone’s disability? Over the phone or video screen?
For most individuals receiving disability benefits is a matter of life and death, or staying in their home or being homeless. These benefits are important to individuals. Shouldn’t we be giving the individual the time and attention they deserve for their claim? I make it a point to meet with every single one of my clients to get a clear picture of what is going on in their life and how I can help. Call me, and I can save you the time and agony of waiting to apply at your local SSA office.