Personal Finance

Still waiting on a Social Security benefit application or new card? New report shows how Covid-19 has delayed mail processing

VALERIE MACON | AFP | Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic prompted the Social Security Administration to suspend in-person services in March 2020.

Now, a new report from the Social Security Office of the Inspector General finds that the agency is still behind with regard to processing some mailed applications and requests for Social Security cards.

As part of its investigation, the Office of the Inspector General had visited 73 locations, including field offices, program service centers and Social Security card centers, as of July 28.

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What it found was “inadequate internal controls over mail processing,” according to the report released on Thursday.

For example, one program service center still had more than 9,000 unprocessed documents dating back to November 2020. Some of those documents were necessary to confirm eligibility for benefit payments.

One field office had 677 unprocessed applications dating back to July 2020.

Replacement Social Security cards were also held up, with one Social Security card center having more than 9,000 unprocessed applications since May 2021.

Consequently, those people are still waiting to receive their Social Security cards or have their original documents they submitted with their applications returned.

Other problems identified by the investigators include backlogs of remittances or unnegotiated benefit checks, undeliverable mail and inconsistent and sometimes unsecure mail storage policies that could leave private information exposed.

“We believe these deficiencies occurred because SSA does not have comprehensive, specific or detailed policies, management information or performance metrics related to how it processes mail,” the report states. “Without this information, SSA cannot know how much unprocessed mail it has, what is in the mail or how old the mail is.”

Among its key concerns are the fact that the Social Security Administration does not have the ability to adjust its staffing levels to make sure mail is processed in a timely way. It also does not have set policies to track and return original documents submitted to provide proof of eligibility for either benefits or cards.

The Office of the Inspector General is working with management at the Social Security Administration to address these issues. Final reports are scheduled to be issued before the end of 2021 and will detail its final findings, recommendations and actions taken, the officials said.

The Social Security Administration was not immediately available for comment.

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