Mar 31, 2015

22 Minute Hold Time On 800 Number -- If They're Even Able To Answer The Phone

     Some numbers from the newsletter of the National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA), an organization of Social Security management personnel (emphasis added):
Field Office Appointment Availability
• Beginning of FY [Fiscal Year] 2012: 74 percent of customers could get an appointment within two weeks. Less than 1 percent waited over a month for an appointment.
• End of FY 2014: 28 percent of customers could get an appointment within two weeks. 47 percent had to wait over a month for an appointment.
Field Office Waiting Times
• FY 2012: Customers waited an average of 18.8 minutes; and 4.8 percent, or 2.15 million customers, waited over an hour to be served.
• FY 2014: Customers waited an average of 28.2 minutes (50 percent increase) and 13.3 percent, or 5.42 million customers, waited over an hour to be served.
Field Office Telephone Service
• FY 2012: Busy Rate: 7.4 percent; Answer Rate: 82.9 percent
• FY 2014: Busy Rate: 20.1 percent; Answer Rate: 67.3 percent
800 Number Telephone Service
• FY 2012: Busy Rate: 4.6 percent; Time on Hold: 4 minutes, 14 seconds; Answer Rate: unavailable
• FY 2014: Busy Rate: 13.5 percent; Time on Hold: 22 minutes, 3 seconds; Answer Rate: 53.8 percent

20 comments:

Dan Smith said...

There's nothing like SSA's hotline to turn a simple question into a morning-consuming epic phone quest

Anonymous said...

Why do we seem surprised at these numbers?

Anonymous said...

I've had 3 hour wait time with IRS and 1 hour wait time with Verizon Wireless. Am I missing something? What's Chuck's point?

Anonymous said...

TO 1:29 PM, March 31, 2015
Uh, maybe comparison to illustrate diminished services over the last two years?

Anonymous said...

The powers that be in the politico/financial services/capitalist world have long desired diminished service delivery by SSA, so that the public saitisfaction will lessen, making it easier to privatize. They are on the path to success.

Anonymous said...

Think about how much is now being handled online without SSA employees complete involvement. (I realize there is still some human work to be done on the back end of some of the online tasks.

I don't have the numbers in front of me but I think there has not been any appreciable change in the staffing numbers during this time frame. So what is causing the increase in delays if there are the same amount of people and less tasks to be performed? Is it just an increase in the total numbers of folks they are having to deal with? I really don't know, and would like to hear what others think.

Anonymous said...

Full time permanent staff 2012: 62,943

Full time permanent staff 2014: 62,956

Source: http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/supplement/2014/2f1-2f3.pdf (page 3)

Anonymous said...

While 3:46pm may be a true reflection of staffing levels, the agency is not able to train and have new capable employees for at least a year or two.

Anonymous said...

At least half the employees that are veterans are sub standard. We have 9 CR'S in my office and I wouldn't want 6 of them anywhere near anything of importance. So, we effectively have 3 "competent" CR'S assuming no one is off. A lot of time is spent undoing messes made by the union protected and probably soon to be promoted employees. I've been at 5 different ofgices and unfortunately this is not the exception.

Anonymous said...

In 2012 our appointment calendar only went out 30 days (now it's 60 days), so it wasn't possible to have to wait more than a month for an appointment. Comparing apples to oranges.

Anonymous said...

re anon 3:39pm

Anything done via Internet more complicated than a change of address or direct deposit requires employee action on the back end. You don't see it, but it shows up on a list somewhere (in either the workload support unit or a field office) that has to be worked. Since these items aren't scheduled, we have to fit them in wherever we can.

Claims submitted online are generally a complete and utter mess and require us to fully re-interview the claimant. The funniest thing about it is that it always takes me longer to fix the messes submitted online than it would have taken just done the interview myself. So, the online process is actually more expensive for the government than it would be if I just did it myself.

Anonymous said...

These phone numbers also don't reflect the phone redirection that is now taking place.

If you call your local office, there is no guarantee you'll get them. If they have more than a certain number of calls queued, your call is redirected to another office within the area.

You can call your local office in Arkansas, but end up talking to an office in Oklahoma or Texas. Who, depending upon the subject of the call, may or may not be able to help you.

Anonymous said...

Don't dismiss out of hand what 5:14 said. Update and bring back the Civil Service test. Today a 4-year college degree is no guarantee that a prospective employee can read well enough to comprehend technical material, write, or perform even basic mathematical calculations. And don't even think about teaching them interpersonal skills and how to deal with the public. Staffing at SSA is a disaster and it's NOT just about the numbers.

Anonymous said...

9:05

Yep. We have a former field office employee in my odar office and this person occasionally mentions how absurd it is that those tests are no longer used for new hires and for promotions. We just trust that years of experience--the ol' service comp. date (that's all AFGE cares about)--necessarily means one can do the job.

Don't even get me started about how the application process for new attorney decision writers at ODAR requires a writing sample (and a four-year degree, law degree, and law license somewhere), but the process for new paralegal specialists (who, from my reading of the official job description have a job description essentially identical to that of attorney-adviser) does not. No writing sample required for selection to a job that is nearly 100% (if done adequately) technical, legal, persuasive writing. Go figure...

Anonymous said...

3:25, I was under the impression we didn't hire non-attorney paralegal writers anymore (we don't need to with the surplus of lawyers) am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

I know there is a preference for attorneys at the top. Further, since the vast majority of writer hiring recently has been for the Bmore NCAC and other new regional/national centers (and those are exclusively filled with attorneys), it has been overwhelmingly attorneys recently.

But with AFGE applying pressure (one of their official rebuttal points to Vision 2025 is that new writer hires be mostly paralegals) and the desire to allow a pathway to higher grades for nonattorneys, I don't think the paralegal job is going away. Anecdotally there have been plenty of recent internal only paralegal promotions recently (within the last year) in my region.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the paralegals. I'm assuming they are more prone to writing undefensible decisions than are the attys (I know that's an overgeneralization) With a significant portion of ALJs not taking the time to actually proofread the decisions and compare it to the evidence, this should help keep things flowing back from the federal courts.

Anonymous said...

There are multiple reasons for the increased waiting times for SSA. SSA pushed online services so much that offices cut their appointments and some cut their appointment calendar to 0. Since there were no appointments, people could either file online or walk in, which made SSA's walk in traffic more unpredictable than it was in the past.

Also, integrity related workloads (CDR's and Redeterminations) were a bigger focus in FY 2014 than in 2012; initial claims, SSN cards, and other miscellaneous events were pushed to the back burner because applicants could complete those online or choose to wait.

Anonymous said...

Hold times are up at the call centers because they now use a different service provider that has an unlimited queue. Call centers are the rented mules of the agency.

Anonymous said...

The quality of SSA staff is deplorable. I occasionally help friends and neighbors with SSA issues (I retired 15 years ago) and I find many CRs don't know even the most basic rules and regulations.