Social Security field offices closed in March 2020 in response to the pandemic. For more than two years, beneficiaries have relied on online and telephone resources for their Social Security and Medicare questions. But on April 7, local Social Security offices reopened to the public without an appointment.
While this is great news for many beneficiaries that prefer to conduct their business in-person, there are still hurdles to receiving service. Those planning a trip to their local Social Security office can expect delays both in their local office, and with paperwork processing. These delays could prevent you from receiving your initial benefits on time.
Expect Delays with Social Security Office Visits, Phone Calls, and Paperwork Processing
Many people prefer to, or need to, visit their local Social Security office in person to have their questions answered and to file an application for retirement benefits or Medicare. But despite the offices reopening recently, many people who haven’t scheduled appointments prior have experienced long wait times.
If you need to visit your local office, consider the Social Security Administration’s guidelines for the best times to visit or call your local office. In general, offices are busiest early in the month, early in the week, and in the mornings. For those that want to minimize their wait time, appointments are recommended, though they are not required.
For those who do not want to wait in line, or who are unable to visit in person, online and telephone services are available. However, you may also experience delays when calling your local Social Security Office. When calling the Social Security Administration 800 number, the average speed to answer was over 38 minutes in March, up from a 13 minute average in 2021.
In addition to delays with receiving answers to your questions or help with your application, the Social Security Administration is experiencing a backlog of applications. According to anecdotal reports, the Social Security Administration application processing is running 2 ½ to 3 months – even for applications filed online. While delays in receiving answers to your Social Security and Medicare questions can be frustrating, the delays in application processing can have a more substantial impact on your financial plan. This makes planning ahead more vital than ever.
What Social Security and Medicare Processing Delays Mean for You
First and foremost, if you are nearing your intended beginning date for Social Security or Medicare, you should apply as early as possible to ensure that your application is processed on time. You can apply for Social Security up to four months prior to your intended beginning date and you can apply for Medicare up to three months before you want your coverage to begin. For example, if you turn 62 on December 2, you can apply as early as August to have Social Security retirement benefits begin in December.
For Medicare, you become eligible at age 65 – assuming that you or your spouse paid Medicare tax during your working years. If you are already receiving Social Security at that time, your Medicare benefits are automatic. But, many choose to delay their Social Security retirement benefits to or past their Full Retirement Age. If you have delayed your Social Security retirement benefits past age 65, you could have to apply for Medicare.
If you submit your application at the earliest opportunity, you have a much better chance of having your benefits begin on the intended date. On the other hand, if you wait to file closer to your beginning date, your paperwork may not be processed by your intended start date, which could cause your Social Security payments to be delayed.
With Medicare, if you apply and your application is delayed in processing, your benefits will be backdated. However, you might not receive your Medicare card until the processing is complete, which can take several weeks or months. If this is the case, you could have to wait to get supplement insurance, leaving you with a gap in coverage.
While it is important to submit your application as early as possible, many retirees have questions regarding their benefits or their application that need to be answered prior to applying. An experienced financial advisor, like those at Meld Financial, can answer many of your questions and help you navigate the application process.
Get Your Medicare and Social Security Questions Answered by the Team at Meld Financial
When you have questions about your Medicare and Social Security options and the required paperwork, turn to the team of tax, legal, and investment professionals at Meld Financial. With decades of experience helping our clients grow and maintain their wealth, we have the answers to your most pressing retirement questions.
Our proprietary wealth management program, Financial Fingerprint™, is quick to assemble, easy to understand, and simple to modify as your circumstances change. With Financial Fingerprint™, and a partnership with an experienced financial advisor, you can understand how Medicare and Social Security fit into your retirement plan.
To get started, contact us.