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Social Security field offices are starting to fall behind on their work. I am noticing it particularly with SSI payments, which are processed by the local offices. Some SSI claims are taking months to process.

There is a hiring freeze at local Social Security offices. So when an employee leaves due to retirement, promotion or other reason, that person cannot be replaced. The hiring freeze has been in place for a while, and it is due to budget constraints. It is starting to take its toll. Here in Maine, the Portland local field office, which is perhaps the busiest district office in the state, is not keeping up with the workload.

To allow more time to catch up on the backlogged work, the hours during which the Social Security field offices are open to the public have been reduced. Offices are closed to the public at 3:30 now, and beginning January 2, 2013 the district offices will close on Wednesdays at 12:00 noon. Same idea for this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving: the local offices will be closed to the public, but the staff will be working to catch up.

As stated by the press release announcing the change, many Social Security services do not require a visit to a local office. Routine matters can be handled online. Nevertheless, people expect government offices to be open during normal business hours. I hope these reductions are temporary.