You may want to call ahead to check the hours of operation if you're planning to visit your local Social Security office anytime soon.
Beginning Monday, Nov. 19, the more than 1,200 field offices around the country will begin closing 30 minutes earlier. Generally, offices that are now open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. will close at 3 p.m.. Come January, they'll begin closing at noon every Wednesday.
[Use AARP's calculator to estimate your benefit.]
Budget cuts are to blame for the shortened hours.
According to Social Security spokeswoman Kia Green, closing the office to the public earlier will allow employees to work their regular hours and not rack up overtime.
Due to budget deadlocks, the federal government is now operating under a continuing resolution, which essentially extends the previous year's levels of funding.
"We are operating on significantly less funding than either the agency or President Obama requested," Green told AARP in an email.
During fiscal 2012, 20 field offices were consolidated; 11 were consolidated during the 2011 fiscal year. The 2013 fiscal year began on Oct. 1.
Some 182,000 people visit Social Security offices each day and about 445,000 call daily for assistance. With many baby boomers hitting Social Security eligibility age, these already astounding numbers are likely to continue to grow.
"You can imagine the level of frustration many folks will experience," says Timothy Gearan, a senior legislative representative at AARP.
If the SSA "already isn't meeting its stated goals for reducing the backlog on disability claims and not meeting targets for processing retirement claims, that will cause dissatisfaction to people who are entitled to prompt and efficient delivery of service," he adds.
President Obama's re-election, and the continuation of the Republican-dominated House, seem to suggest big challenges when it comes to budget resolutions. Congress faces sequestration - across-the-board cuts that affect many federal agencies including the SSA budget. Those cuts are scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of January if lawmakers fail to act.
Gearan says those budget cuts could force the SSA to shed as many as 2,000 jobs on top of the 7,000 jobs that were lost over the last few years.
"There's got to be a breaking point somewhere in the next three weeks or three months or three years. That breaking point will come," Gearan says.
Photo credit: donkeyhotey via flickr.com