WASHINGTON — Social Security Administration field offices, including Geneva’s, have been closed to the public for more than a year because of the pandemic. But Congressman John Katko, R-24 of Camillus, and other members of the House say it’s time the agency provide new options for customers who need to submit documents.

Joining Katko in the bipartisan effort for changes to Social Security operations are House members Elise Stefanik, a Republican representing New York’s 21st District; Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia; Dusty Johnson, a Republican from South Dakota; and Lauren Underwood, an Illinois Democrat.

For more than a year, over 1,500 Social Security field offices, including Geneva’s, have been closed to the public due to the ongoing pandemic. Katko said the office closures have made it difficult for people who need to show original documents, such as a driver’s license, to process SSA claims, obtain a replacement SSA card or access benefits.

Katko said the Social Security Administration has generally required individuals to mail the original documents to the field office. The mail-in requirement calls on applicants to either part with their original documents for an unspecified period of time or risk interrupting claim processing.

He noted that the Social Security Administration has initiated a pilot program that includes drop boxes, online meetings and other methods to allow the public to show their original documents without having to mail them.

“The continued closure of Social Security Administration’s (SSA) field offices due to the ongoing pandemic has created hardship for many Central New Yorkers,” said Katko. “In particular, the closures have especially impacted those I’ve heard from who have to produce original documents, such as a driver’s license or passport, to process a SSA claim or access services through the agency. To protect public health and the integrity of the claims, the SSA is requiring these individuals to mail in their documents. During these unprecedented times we have to create better workarounds. I’m urging the SSA to implement new and flexible approaches that allow central New Yorkers to process their claims and access vital services without having to part with their important documents.”

Katko said he is requesting SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul evaluate the pilot programs and “provide additional information on the implementation of these important workarounds.”

Social Security Administration spokesperson Nicole Tiggemann said Monday that “the agency will respond directly to the congressman.”

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