What to Expect at Your Local Social Security Office

Disability Benefits

Important: We updated this article in May 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. Ask anyone: Waiting on Social Security disability benefits is often frustrating. (That’s especially true when you don’t know how long a “normal” wait time is to get something done in person.) The Social Security Administration (SSA) deals with a variety of issues — from complex cases to budget shortfalls and more. So, it’s no surprise that many people plan their whole day around visiting the nearest Social Security office.

Since not everyone has a whole day to spare, we pulled some info to help you plan your trip. Based on the SSA Inspector General’s audit report, here’s what to expect at your next Social Security office visit.

How Many People Visit A Social Security Office In Person Each Year?

First, let’s look at how big the SSA is and how many field office locations exist. Today, the agency has more than 1,200 field offices in 10 regions across the nation and in U.S. territories. These field offices allow SSA employees to serve the public directly and answer their questions. And they serve a lot of people. In 2019, SSA offices served around 43.3 million visitors. To find the closest Social Security office near you, enter your ZIP code and click “Locate” on this page.

Average In-Person Processing Times for the Most Common Requests

On average, it takes one SSA employee 17 minutes to process new or replacement Social Security number requests. Thanks to the pandemic, you can also start your SSN card request online via the SSA’s website.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims usually take around 130 minutes to complete for each applicant. Supplemental Security Income applicants aged 65 and older spend around 91 minutes filing claims, on average. However, blind or disabled SSI applicants younger than 65 take 101 minutes to file claims in person. Need to let the SSA know that you moved, got divorced or make another status change? For once, visiting the Social Security office is faster — it takes just 6 minutes to update your file!

Is Making an Appointment at the Social Security Office Faster?

If your time is limited or you have children coming along with you, then yes, make an appointment! About 3.1 million (7.5%) of the 43.3 million visitors made appointments before their Social Security office visits. People who made a Social Security office appointment waited just 4 minutes, on average; everyone else waited about 26.4 minutes. About 1 in 10 Social Security office visitors each year waits more than an hour for service.

That said, making an appointment doesn’t always guarantee you’ll get in and out faster. In 2019, more than 4.4 million people requested appointments at a Social Security office. But on average, it took 22.6 days after making an appointment for their appointment date to arrive. In general, however, an appointment is still the fastest way to get helped in person at your local SSA office. In 2020, people calling their local Social Security office stayed on hold about 1.4 minutes before speaking to a person. Those calling the SSA’s 1-800 number in FY2022 waited 33 minutes before a human being could answer.

Which Office Locations Have the Longest Wait Times?

Your luck may depend entirely on which Social Security office location you choose to visit. Understaffed offices, new hires, and bad weather can all lead to very long wait times for visitors. But in 2019, these 10 SSA office locations had the longest wait times, on average:

  • Anchorage, Alaska (average wait time: 53.1 minutes)
  • Vancouver, Washington (average wait time: 50 minutes)
  • Mount Prospect, Illinois (average wait time: 49.8 minutes)
  • Columbus North, Ohio (average wait time: 49.5 minutes)
  • Woodstock, Illinois (average wait time: 49.2 minutes)
  • Chicago Heights, Illinois (average wait time: 48.9 minutes)
  • Bloomingdale, Illinois (average wait time: 47.9 minutes)
  • Johnson County, Kansas (average wait time: 47.8 minutes)
  • Rockville, Maryland (average wait time: 47.1 minutes)
  • Columbus West, Ohio (average wait time: 46.6 minutes)

If your local SSA office is listed above, consider making an appointment… and plan to wait awhile.

If you want free expert help with your SSD claim, we recommend talking to an attorney. You can apply for free at the nearest Social Security office, if you already have strong, recent medical evidence to submit. Filing your claim is free, whether you go through a lawyer or apply in person at the Social Security office. However, a lawyer makes you 3x more likely to win SSD benefits in the shortest time possible.

Last year, the SSA denied claims from about 4 in every 5 initial claims. A lawyer can help you avoid simple mistakes. Plus, you’ll never pay any fees unless your case succeeds. If you do win, then you’ll only pay one small fee taken out of your back pay.

Want free expert claim help by phone? Click the button below to start your free SSD benefits quiz now to see if you may qualify:

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.