A trip to your local Social Security office can be stressful and frustrating if you aren’t prepared. By avoiding some common mistakes, you can make your visit go much more smoothly. Here are the top 10 mistakes to avoid when visiting your local Social Security office:
1. Not Having the Right Documents
One of the biggest mistakes is showing up without the right documents. The Social Security Administration will require certain paperwork depending on why you are visiting.
For example, if you are applying for benefits, you will need your birth certificate, driver’s license or state ID, social security card, and employment history.
If you are reporting a name change, you need marriage certificates or court orders. Not having the required documents will mean an unnecessary return visit.
2. Going Without an Appointment
Many Social Security offices now require you to make an appointment before visiting. Just showing up can mean long wait times or being turned away entirely.
Before heading to your local office, check their website or call to see if you need an appointment. This ensures you are seen in a timely manner once you arrive.
3. Getting the Address or Office Hours Wrong
It seems simple, but double check that you have the right Social Security office location and hours before heading out. Entering the wrong address into your GPS or misunderstanding their hours can leave you frustrated.
Avoid this by looking up their address at SSA.gov and verifying their hours. Many offices also have varying hours for certain services, so check those details too.
4. Not Getting a Number Ticket
Once at the office, you will likely need to take a number from a ticket machine. Failing to do so can mean you don’t get seen in the proper order.
Make sure to pull your ticket and wait for your number to be called. This ensures fair and proper queuing. Don’t sit down until you have that ticket in hand.
5. Forgetting Key Items at Security Checkpoints
Don’t assume you can just walk into a Social Security office. Most have strict security screenings, similar to airport TSA. You will need to empty your pockets, take off belts and jackets, and put bags through an x-ray machine.
Leaving items in your pockets or forgetting to remove laptops from bags holds up the line. Come prepared by traveling light and having any items easily accessible.
6. Not Having Patience
One of the biggest complaints about Social Security offices is the long waits. While appointments help, bring a healthy dose of patience. Even with an appointment, expect to wait at least 30 minutes or more.
Bring activities to occupy your time like books, magazines, or mobile games. Getting frustrated or taking your anger out on the staff will not expedite your visit.
7. Going During the Busiest Times
If you can avoid early morning or midday visits, do so. Social Security offices tend to be busiest before 9 am and between 11 am and 2 pm.
Opting for an early afternoon or later evening appointment when possible will mean shorter wait times. Monday and Friday are also often the busiest walk-in days.
8. Not double checking your documentation
Before you leave home, make sure to double and even triple check you have every document required. Missing one critical item will mean you have to return another day to complete your application.
Go through any checklists and bring photocopies as well as originals just in case. You want all your ducks in a row to achieve your goal in a single visit.
9. Not Asking Questions
If you don’t understand a form, process or anything else at your appointment, speak up. The worst thing you can do is stay silent out of embarrassment.
The staff wants to help you and will welcome any clarifying questions.
Don’t leave the office confused about next steps. Ask as many questions as you need until you understand.
10. Getting Angry at Staff
The Social Security staff wants to assist you, so remember to be patient and kind. Losing your cool or raising your voice will not get you served faster. If you feel your appointment is not going well or your needs are unmet, politely ask for a supervisor.
Calmly explaining issues to management can help resolve problems, while anger will only make matters worse.
A visit to the Social Security office can seem intimidating, but avoiding these common mistakes will set you up for success. Being prepared with all your documents, an appointment, and a patient attitude will help everything run smoothly.
You may have to wait, but knowing what to expect means less frustration. Follow these tips to complete your Social Security needs efficiently.