The coronavirus pandemic has caused a backlog at Social Security processing centers – meaning some claimants and beneficiaries have yet to receive key documentation from the program, a new report shows.
The Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration released a report on Thursday detailing different types of processing backlogs that arose during the pandemic, affecting thousands of pieces of mail dating back to 2020 in some cases.
The agency suspended in-person services in March 2020 due to the pandemic, and has been heavily reliant on paperwork for correspondence since.
One facility had more than 9,000 unprocessed documents dating back to November 2020, some of which were necessary to establish eligibility for Social Security payments, according to the report.
A Social Security card center had thousands of unprocessed documents dating back to May 2021 – meaning these individuals have yet to receive their documents or Social Security number cards.
Another facility had 200,000 pieces of returned, unprocessed mail, which the report noted could require action like suspending or terminating benefits.
Offices were notified as many as four weeks in advance of the visits by inspectors, who acknowledged in the report that backlogs may have been addressed in anticipation of their arrival. Inspectors visited 73 facilities, including field offices, program service centers and Social Security card centers.
Half of field office managers told the OIG that they were overwhelmed by mail duties.
A spokesperson for the Social Security Administration (SSA) told FOX Business that once it learned of the issue, the acting commissioner decided to stop requiring the public to mail sensitive documents and directed a review of mail improvements to implement improvements.
The SSA is not the only government agency that had a difficult time keeping up operations with limited resources during the pandemic.
Cumulatively, the IRS is facing a backlog of 35.3 million unprocessed individual and business returns, which represents a four-fold increase over the backlog it had at the end of the 2019 filing season.
In addition to the pandemic-related staffing challenges, the IRS was also tasked with distributing several rounds of direct payments to American households during the 2020 and 2021 tax seasons. The agency began the 2020 filing season with a backlog of more than 11 million unprocessed paper returns.