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How can I get help from Social Security?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers customer service online, by phone and at field offices across the country, which fully reopened April 7 after being largely closed for more than two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

You can conduct most routine business, including applying for benefits and filing appeals, at the Social Security website or by calling the SSA’s national customer service line (800-772-1213).

Getting help online: My Social Security

You can apply for retirement and spousal benefitsSocial Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare online through the SSA website (but not for survivor benefits). You can also begin an application for Supplementary Security Income (SSI), but in some circumstances you will have to finish it by phone or in person.

Opening an online My Social Security account gives you 24/7 access to your Social Security statement, which shows your earnings history and estimated future benefit payments. You can also track the status of an application for benefits or pending appeal and request a replacement Social Security card.

My Social Security services expand once you start collecting benefits. Among other things, you can use your account to get copies or request replacements of key documents, including tax forms and official verification of your benefit status; report a change of address to the SSA; and change bank details for direct deposit of your monthly payments.

The AARP Social Security Resource Center has a tutorial on creating a My Social Security account. The SSA’s Online Services page has details on information and assistance you can access anywhere using a computer or mobile device. Many Social Security forms are available online to download and print.

Getting help by phone

If you are unable to use online services or want to speak directly to a Social Security representative, call the SSA’s national customer service number at 800-772-1213 or call your local field office. You can apply for any type of benefit by phone, including survivor benefits and SSI.

The national phone line is staffed by live agents from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time on weekdays except for federal holidays. Outside those hours, you may be able to find what you’re looking for using the SSA’s automated phone service.

Field 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 phone number for your nearest facility.  

Wait times on calls to the national 800 number have fluctuated widely during the pandemic, rising sharply in the early weeks of the outbreak as field offices closed to visitors, then declining as the SSA outfitted more call center staff with tools to handle calls remotely. Hold times have spiked again in recent months as the agency implements an upgrade to the phone system, with waits averaging 32 minutes in February.

The SSA says customers may also experience busy signals or unintentional disconnects as it works through the technical issues and recommends calling when they system is typically less busy:

  • Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • Between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Later in the week (Wednesday through Friday).
  • Toward the end of the month. 

If your issue can’t be resolved in the initial call, Social Security says it will schedule a phone interview or office appointment.

Getting help in person

You can apply for any type of benefit, get forms and information, and get help with Social Security issues in person at one of the more than 1,200 SSA field offices. 

Social Security offices shut down in March 2020 and for most of the pandemic provided in-person service by appointment only and just for select situations involving urgent benefit issues or Social Security numbers. 

While walk-in service resumed April 7, Social Security recommends scheduling your visit in advance. If you visit a field office without an appointment, the SSA says to expect long lines, especially at typically busy times, like Mondays, the day after a federal holiday and during the first week of the month.

A small number of field offices may continue to provide appointment-only service due to construction, inability to accommodate people waiting outside the office or other reasons. Check Social Security's office closings and emergencies page for an up-to-date list.

Keep in mind  

  • You must complete a self-assessment for COVID-19 symptoms before entering a Social Security office and wear a mask during your visit.
  • You may be asked to wait outside due to limited office space, so plan for the weather.
  • If you need help with your visit because of a language barrier, disability or other issue, you may bring one adult for assistance. Otherwise, the SSA asks that you come alone (although children are allowed).

Updated April 7, 2022