Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, but not to talk . . .


If you need assistance with a Social Security disability claim, you'd think you'd be able to call your local Social Security office and speak to a human being. But you can't. Social Security does not publish it's local field office numbers.

So you can try the 800 number listed on Social Security's website. The website tells you that one of the recorded messages you can listen to will give you information about the "best times to call our 800 number." 

If you think to yourself, "well, I'll just hold until they connect me to a real person," you'll need to adjust your expectations. Many times (most times?) the automated voice will explain to you that Social Security's people are busy right now so please call back another time. 

Once upon a time, the Social Security Administration aspired to provide "World Class Service." Given the budget cuts and the general animosity towards Social Security from many in Congress, we now have a system that keeps Americans from speaking to real live people in a timely manner. The help they need is denied them until they luck out on the next call . . . or the one after that. (Once you get through, you often speak to someone trying to do the best they can.) This is not the kind of automated "efficiency" people really want. People prefer talking to people. 

This is nothing new, but it's still a shame. With all the chaos in Washington, the everyday frustrations of people trying to navigate a complex system like Social Security are forgotten, if they were ever appreciated to begin with. What does it say about the things Americans value that after navigating a battery of voice menus, all you get for your effort is "We can't help you. Maybe later?" 

Here's hoping the next Commissioner will think this is a problem worth solving.