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With most employees teleworking during the pandemic, the watchdog faulted the agency for not having a system to track and return customers’ identification documents.
The Social Security Administration is struggling with a backlog of thousands of unprocessed eligibility documents and half of field offices report being “overwhelmed” by mail as a result of the agency’s inability to adequately manage mail processing during the pandemic, the agency’s inspector general reported last week.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, most Social Security offices have been in a maximum telework stance, but some managers have had to report to their offices to handle mail duties. Lawmakers have repeatedly highlighted complaints from constituents about the need to mail original copies of sensitive documents, including drivers licenses and birth certificates, to the agency as a result of the office closures.
The agency’s inspector general last week issued an interim report on issues surrounding the handling of mail at field offices and found that the agency “has no performance metrics” and does not maintain information on the volume of mail coming in, going out or deemed pending. And it does not have policies or procedures to track and return original documents that customers send to provide proof that they are eligible for benefits or a Social Security card.
According to the report, the issues around handling the mail have led to a backlog of thousands of customers’ original documents and thousands of unprocessed applications for Social Security cards.
“For example, one [program service center] had more than 9,000 unprocessed original documents it had received as early as November 2020,” the inspector general wrote. “We found that some of these documents were necessary to establish individuals’ eligibility for benefit payments. Some offices had backlogs of unprocessed applications for new or replacement Social Security cards. One field office had 677 unprocessed applications dated as early as July 2020. We also observed a Social Security card center that had over 9,000 unprocessed applications dated as early as May 2021. As a result, individuals have yet to receive their original documents or Social Security number card.”