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News Every Day |

Not Just the Post Office: Social Security Also Can’t Process Mail

Stephen Silver

Social Security,

The report found that during the pandemic, mail processing was a major problem, to the point where many recipients did not receive their benefits.

Here's What You Need to Remember: “Upon learning of this issue, the acting commissioner decided to stop requiring the public to mail sensitive documents to us and directed a review of mail processes to implement improvements,” said agency spokesman Mark Hinkle, as quoted by GovExec.com. “We appreciate the Office of Inspector General’s review of this issue.”

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a report last week called “The Social Security Administration's Processing of Mail and Enumeration Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

The report found that during the pandemic, mail processing was a major problem, to the point where many recipients did not receive their benefits, their cards, or other important information in a timely fashion. CNBC and other media outlets have reported on the release.

“SSA has no performance metrics and does not maintain management information on the volume of incoming, outgoing, or pending mail. Consequently, the Agency does not have sufficient information to enable it to adjust staffing levels to ensure mail is processed timely,” the report said. “SSA lacks comprehensive policies and procedures to track and return original documents—including driver’s licenses, birth certificates, passports, and naturalization documents—that customers provide as proof of eligibility for benefits or a Social Security number card.”

There were also terrible backlogs during the pandemic.

“Some offices had backlogs of workloads that involved original documents. For example, one Program Service Center (PSC) had more than 9,000 unprocessed original documents it had received as early as November 2020. We found that some of these documents were necessary to establish individuals’ eligibility for benefit payments,” the OIG report said.

There were also reports of undeliverable mail, including “more than 200,000 pieces of returned mail” at one location.

The OIG visited seventy-three SSA facilities, including field offices, program service centers (PSC), and Social Security Card Centers, over the course of their research for the report. They also noted in the report that the facilities were informed in advance that they were coming.

“Two to four weeks prior to each office visit conducted from June 16 through July 16, 2021, we notified management of the date and time of our arrival. In some cases, SSA personnel took actions to address backlogs in anticipation of our visit, which impaired our ability to gain an understanding of the true state of the Agency’s mail and SSN card operations. We were not assured that what we observed in the selected offices generally represented all offices,” the report said.

“Upon learning of this issue, the acting commissioner decided to stop requiring the public to mail sensitive documents to us and directed a review of mail processes to implement improvements,” said agency spokesman Mark Hinkle, as quoted by GovExec.com. “We appreciate the Office of Inspector General’s review of this issue.”

Charles T. Hall, the author of the Social Security Blog, called the report “The Most Damning OIG Report I've Ever Seen.”

This was an interim report; a final report will be published later.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

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