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Will online services become the norm for Social Security?

So much of our lives are conducted online these days, and Social Security officials say their program should be no different.

Plans were released by the Social Security Administration recently to expand the agency’s online presence while tapering back on field offices that provide in-person services in effort to cut spending while supposedly making the services more convenient for beneficiaries.

“We have to use the technology that’s available to us,” the SSA’s acting commissioner said in an interview. “We know that there are the realities of the budget, and [that’s] going to require us to continue services in the most efficient manner.”

The plan would promote online self-service capabilities and use video conferencing more heavily instead of in-person hearings when determining if applicants are available for benefits.

The good news for beneficiaries is that they will be able to accomplish many of their tasks without having to set up an appointment and waiting.

However, others are critical of the plans.

Others, a federal union that represents thousands of SSA workers and advocacy groups for the elderly and disabled say that the plan should actually be to open more field offices to accommodate the growing number of Social Security recipients.

“These are complicated legal decisions. It’s not like depositing a check at the bank,” said the co-director of a coalition that advocates for beneficiaries. “We should be opening new field offices given the number of people who are reaching retirement age.”

Disability Scoop reported that there are currently about 1,250 field offices throughout the country that are visited by nearly 180,000 people each day.

How would you feel about the SSA closing many of its field offices and conducting most of its business online? Would you feel comfortable attending a hearing in your case via video conference? Do you think a judge could fully understand the limits of your disability without seeing you in person?

Hopefully the SSA seeks answers to these questions before making any final decisions.

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