Dear Savvy Senior: I’ve heard that the Social Security Administration has closed all its offices because of the coronavirus pandemic. How are they accommodating people while they’re closed down? — Recently Retired
Dear Recently: Yes, that’s correct. The Social Security Administration has closed its 1,200 field offices throughout the country to protect benefit recipients and workers from the coronavirus pandemic. Their offices have been closed since March 17. How long they will be closed is unclear. It will depend on the course of the pandemic.
In the meantime, services will continue to be available online at the SocialSecurity.gov website and over the phone. You can also rest assured that monthly payments to the more than 69 million Social Security beneficiaries will not be affected in any way.
Here’s a rundown of how you can get help and get answers to your Social Security questions while their offices are shut down.
For any Social Security business you need to conduct, go to SSA.gov/onlineservices. There you can view your latest statement and earnings history; apply for retirement, disability and Medicare benefits online; check the status of an application or appeal; request a replacement Social Security card (in most areas); print a benefit verification letter; and much more — from anywhere and from any of your devices.
The website also has a wealth of information to answer most of your Social Security questions without having to speak with a representative. For answers to your Social Security questions, see the frequently asked questions page at SSA.gov/ask.
If you can’t conduct your Social Security business online, check the SSA online field office locator (see SSA.gov/locator) for specific information about how to directly contact your local office. Your local office will be able to provide critical services to help you apply for benefits, answer your questions and provide other services over the phone.
Or, you can also call the Social Security national toll-free number at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778). This number has many automated service options you can use without waiting to speak with a telephone representative.
If you already have an in-office appointment scheduled, Social Security will call you to handle your appointment over the phone instead. The call might come from a private number and not from a federal line.
Beware of scams
Be aware that Social Security telephone impersonation scams are growing. These scammers might falsely tell you that there is a problem with your account, that your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspected illegal activity, that you’re owed a cost-of-living benefit increase or that your monthly benefits will stop because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The caller might also threaten your benefits, suggest you’ll face legal action if you don’t provide information, or pressure you to send money via wire transfers, cash or gift cards. They might even “spoof” your caller ID to make it look like Social Security is actually calling.
If you receive one of these calls, hang up. Social Security rarely contacts anyone by phone unless you have ongoing business with them, and it will never threaten you or ask for any form of payment.
For more information on how to get help with Social Security during the coronavirus shutdown, visit SSA.gov/coronavirus.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.