Cowlitz County, WA Social Security Offices
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A Guide to Your Local SSA Office Visit
The Social Security Administration (SSA) local office is the location that handles all types of Social Security claims and applications, from retirement to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to Supplemental Security Income (SSI). When you visit, you can get more help if you have questions ready for the representative who serves you.
Use these tips to ensure your SSA trip goes as smoothly as possible, with few hassles and hiccups. It helps to go prepared.
- Schedule Your Visit
- Calendar Your SSA Appointment
- Show up with Your Documents
- Bring a List of Questions
- Be Polite and Patient
- Be Prompt, or Early
- Ask What to Do Next
1. Schedule Your Visit
Although it’s possible to apply for SSI and SSDI online, many people prefer the personal touch and feel better getting questions answered face-to-face rather than via a computer screen. This is exactly what happens when you go to your local SSA office–you get personal attention.
But it’s important to make an appointment so you won’t be tired from waiting by the time you get seen.
If you show up without an appointment, you will probably get a chance to talk to a Claims Specialist that day–but you might not. It’s similar to taking a trip to the Motor Vehicle Department, but the wait at the SSA field office can be much longer.
Do yourself a big favor, and take the time to schedule an appointment.
2. Calendar Your SSA Appointment
Making an appointment is simple: call 1-800-772-1213 (or a local office number if you are able to find one) Monday through Friday between 7 am and 7 pm. The best time to call is first thing in the morning or in the last hour of the day, from 6-7 pm.
An SSA employee will give you a call back if you leave a message before the office opens at 9 am. Set up your appointment, and do your best to keep it. The sooner you get there, the faster you can begin your application process. Write the date and time in your calendar and make it a priority.
3. Show up with Your Documents
When you call for the appointment, be sure to ask the Claims Specialist which forms you should bring, and take notes. It may require some time to locate your documents, but if you cannot find all of them, bring what you have.
If you forget a document or can’t find it, you may need to make another trip (and set up another appointment) so it’s worth checking the notes you took while speaking with the Claims Specialist.
You should always bring your Social Security Card and a copy of any personal identifying information (including a current driver’s license). If you have a US passport or US birth certificate, take them with you.
If you are not a US citizen or are naturalized, bring all documentation relating to your temporary or permanent resident status to your appointment.
4. Bring a List of Questions
It can be intimidating to sit down with a Claims Specialist when you have limited time and are unfamiliar with the SSA application process. For this reason, everyone should bring a list of questions.
Give some thought to what you don’t understand about the disability or retirement process, and write it down. There is no such thing as a dumb question!
Your goal is to make sure everything gets answered. Some examples of good questions to ask if you are applying for disability:
- Should I apply for SSI or SSDI? What’s the difference?
- Where do I apply?
- How long will it take for me to find out the decision?
- What medical information (records) will I need?
- What information do I need to show my work history?
- What are work credits?
- What documents will I need to prove my income?
- What documents will I need to prove my resources?
5. Be Polite and Patient
Keep in mind that the Claims Representative you speak to talks with a lot of people each day, and some of them are frustrated and difficult. Your patience and kindness will go a long way to helping you get the service you deserve and getting all your questions answered.
While you are being polite, also be persistent. It’s okay to ask a question more than once if you don’t understand the answer.
6. Be Prompt, or Early
Whether you make an appointment or not, it’s always a good idea to show up 15 minutes early. You never know what kind of delays might come up on your way to the office.
If you can’t make an appointment, you can just show up. Arrive early, as close to 9am (when the office actually opens its doors) as possible. Many people do not make appointments and as the day goes on, the lobby gets more and more crowded. If you cannot make an appointment or don’t want to, it’s also best to go earlier in the week and avoid Fridays and the end of the month.
7. Ask What to Do Next
Finally, as you wrap up your appointment with the Claims Specialist, make sure to ask what your next step is. You may need to come back with more documentation, or you may want to visit your medical provider or call them for medical records.
Everyone’s situation is different, but often the Claims Specialist will have good advice based on their experience talking with so many SSA applicants.
An Office Visit is Worth Your Time
Many people find that visiting the SSA office is the best way to get the help they need, and this is especially true of people who are unfamiliar with computers or the internet. The Claims Specialists are trained to answer questions about the process, and are there to help you with the most common reasons people visit the office: Social Security Disability applications, retirement benefits, and Social Security cards.
It’s worth the time to go to the field office, but be sure to make an appointment, come prepared, ask questions, and find out what your next move is.
Know when and how to apply for social security, and steps you can take to maximize your benefits.
Learn about Medicare eligibility and the different ways you might qualify.
All Americans with a work history are entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.