STEUBENVILLE - Beginning Monday, Social Security offices across the nation, including the office in Steubenville, are going to close to the public 30 minutes early every day, and beginning Jan. 2 will close each Wednesday at noon.
Agency employees will continue to work their regular hours, however. Closing the public window early will give them time to complete face-to-face interviews and process claims without incurring overtime.
Field offices also will be closed Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, so department personnel can address backlogged caseloads.
In a press release issued Wednesday, Social Security administrators said the reduced funding provided by Congress under the continuing resolution for the first six months of the fiscal year "makes it impossible for the agency to provide the overtime needed to handle service to the public as it has done in the past."
Carmen M. Moreno, regional communications director, said the department's allocation under the continuing resolution was "significantly less, $250 million less, than the president's recommended budget."
In 2011, she said 45 million Americans sought face-to-face assistance at Social Security field offices across the nation.
"That is in addition to nearly 63 million transactions done from our 800 number," she added.
Moreno also said Social Security personnel completed 4.9 million retirement, survivor and Medicare applications and issued 17 million Social Security cards in 2011.
In Ohio alone, she said 3.3 million disability applications were completed in 2011 with decisions on more than 795,000 hearings.
The good news? Most Social Security services like applying for retirement, disability or Medicare, signing up for direct deposit, replacing a lost card, obtaining a proof of income letter or changing addresses and phone numbers can be handled online or by calling the department's toll-free number.
"We've enhanced our electronic services," she said.
The Social Security Administration can be contacted online at www.socialsecurity.gov or by calling, toll free, 1-800-772-1213.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)