7 Ways To Navigate Social Security Without Customer Service

RETIREMENT - SOCIAL SECURITY
Can you contact Social Security without getting a headache?
Updated May 8, 2024
Fact checked
woman getting error message

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Despite 10,000 boomers retiring each day, the Social Security Administration budget and workforce continue to shrink. Their problems started with budget ceilings in 2011 and were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation.

We now have a real mess on our hands. Wait times are at an all-time high at 40-plus minutes for a phone call and months for disability approvals.

While the baby boom generation is doing the right things to prepare for retirement, Social Security problems are beyond their control.

Here’s how you can navigate Social Security despite their poor customer service.

Eliminate your late tax debt

Each year, the IRS forgives millions in unpaid taxes. If you have more than $10,000 in tax debt, or have 3+ years of unfiled taxes, you could get forgiveness too. You might be eligible to lower the amount you owe, or eliminate your tax debt completely.

Easy Tax Relief could help you lower or get out of your tax debt for good. They’re well respected in the industry and have been recognized for their ethical standards when dealing with tax debt. While most tax companies just put you on a payment plan and file your taxes for you, Easy Tax Relief talks to the IRS directly. They can help you pay off your tax debt faster while potentially reducing what you owe.

Important: Not everyone will qualify. To take advantage of this special program you must owe more than $10,000 in past-due taxes.

Fill out this form to get started

Call the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213

Tatyana Gladskih/Adobe working using computer laptop

Sometimes you might have to bite the bullet and call to get help directly from Social Security. 

Their phone lines are staffed by live agents from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time on weekdays except for federal holidays. But be prepared to wait on hold. In recent years, the average wait time has jumped to 40 minutes.

They do have an automated phone system available 24/7 that can help you with things like requesting a benefit verification letter or requesting a claim status.

If you must call, try to call during their least busy times:

  • Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. local time
  • Between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time
  • Wednesday to Friday
  • Near the end of the month

Call your local office

fizkes/Adobe business woman talking on smartphone

You might have better luck and shorter wait times if you contact your local field office. Offices are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Enter your ZIP code into the SSA’s field office locator to find the nearest office.

Some people report that calling their local office will actually get faster service, especially when you are trying to determine claim status or disability decisions.

Use the website

opolja/Adobe senior businessman working on laptop

The Social Security website has expanded its service offerings in recent years, probably to help combat the strain caused by budget and staffing issues.

To get started, you will need to create an online account. Once you’ve created an account, you will be able to do everything from applying for Medicare to submitting an appeal.

It’s recommended that you use the website as much as possible to avoid having to interact directly with Social Security customer service.

Earn $200 cash rewards bonus with this incredible card

There's a credit card that's making waves with its amazing bonus and benefits. The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card(Rates and fees) has no annual fee and you can earn $200 after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months.

The Active Cash Card puts cash back into your wallet. Cardholders can earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases — easy! That's one of the best cash rewards options available.

This card also offers an intro APR of 0% for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable). Which is great for someone who wants a break from high interest rates, while still earning rewards.

The best part? There's no annual fee.

Click here to apply now.

Make an appointment

Peopleimages - AI/Adobe senior woman on a budget review

You can make an appointment at your local office by scheduling it online or by calling your local office. Once there, you can use the Mobile Check-In Express to monitor your appointment status by scanning the QR code in the office.

This app uses your cell phone location service to make sure you are in the office when your number is called. It will alert you when it’s your turn and where to go for your appointment.

Walk in to a field office

rh2010/Adobe business woman in white suit

Be advised that if you walk into a field office without an appointment, you may be waiting awhile. 

The SSA warns that their offices are typically busiest first thing in the morning, early in the week, and during the early part of the month. Planning your visit around those times may help reduce your wait.

Redditors recommend getting to the field office 30 to 60 minutes before it opens for the best chance to get same-day service.

Email your questions

brizmaker/Adobe mature man looking at laptop

The Social Security Administration encourages people to use its website and offers a long list of frequently asked questions to answer questions. But sometimes, you have an inquiry that falls outside of those common questions.

You may email the SSA with your specific questions, but it must meet certain criteria. The office cannot answer emails about your personal situation, so make sure your question doesn’t include your personal information or Social Security number.

There is no listed turnaround time for email responses, but the form does warn that it might take awhile. Only use this option when your question is not urgent and not personal.

Hire an advisor

zinkevych/Adobe optimistic senior couple

The Social Security Administration is there to process your claims, but the agency doesn’t generally advise on the best way to use your benefits. Hiring an SSA advisor is similar to hiring a tax professional.

An SSA advisor can help you understand how to get the most out of your benefits. The SSA does allow you to have a representative, but you must fill out form SA-1696 — Claimant’s Appointment of a Representative — so they can legally speak on your behalf.

A typical fee for hiring a SSA advisor is between $650 and $900. However, working with a professional could mean thousands more dollars in your pocket.

Bottom line

Lane Erickson/Adobe social security cards

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and budget cuts, the SSA website has greatly expanded its online services, so you might never have to interact with its poor customer service.

If you decide to retire early, you can postpone dealing with the Social Security Administration. Hopefully, by then, this customer service nightmare will be over.

Lucrative, Flat-Rate Cash Rewards

5.0

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Current Offer

$200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Earn 2% cash rewards on purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Holly Humbert Holly is a writer who recognizes that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, women in business, and financial literacy. With more than four years of experience, her work has been featured on MarketWatch and The Ways to Wealth.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt