Yesterday, at our monthly meeting of Social Security disability attorneys and claimants’ representatives, we had two district managers from the Social Security Administration’s San Francisco field offices come and speak to us. Both of them offered a dim picture of what is happening locally. Essentially, they are seeing more claimants at the field offices and they are overwhelmed. Each office sees about 300-400 people a day. They do not have the staffing to serve all the people they see. While they are hiring additional staff, they informed us that it really takes about three years for a new hire to learn the job. Many of the people they serve are not native English speakers and the language barrier makes it more difficult to communicate with the claimants.
The district managers encouraged us to file online as much as possible because it makes their jobs easier. Initial claims for SSDI can be filed online. Requests for reconsideration and Requests for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) may be filed online for both SSI and SSDI. (Ironically I just had a look at their website and their online filing system is down.)
They warned us against faxing documents in and mailing a duplicate set in. They told us to choose one or the other. One attorney mentioned that he mails and faxes because he does not receive a confirmation by Social Security that they have received the material. Both managers agreed that if we were to prepare a form receipt for a Social Security employee to fax back, they would start using it. Their advice was to begin including a receipt with anything we send in. The receipt should have a space on it for the Social Security employee to sign and date. Of course, the receipt should contain a fax number on it so that the employee knows where to send it. I will be curious to see if this works. I send everything certified mail so I already feel confident that my materials have been received. Nevertheless, the receipt is a good idea and I will try it out.
All in all it was a productive meeting and I gained some insight into the inner workings at the Social Security field offices. Hopefully the field office managers also benefited by hearing some of our concerns.