The Social Security Administration office in West Palm Beach has been closed since February. But one might not know it by searching the agency’s website.
Its office search page directs visitors to the Congress Avenue location, and only in a note below does it say the office is closed. Once they figure out that they have to go to the Delray Beach or Belle Glade locations instead, people may have to wait in line for two hours or more.
“You have people in various degrees of incapacity or age — sometimes with children — standing outside and it’s getting warmer and warmer,” said Pamela Weiner, a board member of the Palm Beach County Partnership for Aging. “We are bringing people who are demented, who are diabetic, who have limbs missing, who are with walkers, who are mentally ill, who are on the medication schedule and a food schedule, and need to be hydrated and can’t stand.”
The Delray Beach office has been overwhelmed. It has a small waiting room, which means that visitors invariably end up in a line stretching out the door.
Weiner said she recently saw a woman in her 70s fall down face first while waiting in line. Weiner often brings folding chairs for her clients while they are in line. Once they reach the door, however, she said she’s been told she can’t bring the chairs in, because they could be used as weapons. So she’s had to leave her clients, some of whom do not function well on their own, while she totes the chairs back to the car.
The office first closed for a few days in November after reports surfaced of air quality problems in the building. The office is expected to reopen by the summer after general repairs, according to the U.S. General Services Administration. The agency has been working with the building’s owner to assess indoor health quality. Tests for mold and other air quality problems have been negative.
In the meantime, the agency is trying to find some temporary space.
In a written statement, the Social Security Administration noted that “most Social Security services do not require an office visit.”
The agency directed users to its website www.socialsecurity.gov or toll-free number 1-800-772-1213.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, recently wrote a letter, asking for assistance on behalf of his constituents who do need or want an in-person visit.
First off, he asked the agency to publicize the office closure.
“Uninformed citizens traveling to that office arrive to a shuttered building with no answers for where to turn to in the meantime,” he wrote.
Murphy also asked the agency to provide extra seating at the offices that are now dealing with the overflow from West Palm Beach. Other nearby offices are in Belle Glade, Port St. Lucie and North Broward. Getting to them can be a struggle. Seniors traveling from West Palm Beach may have to change buses twice to get to the Delray location.
While visiting in person is a choice for some Social Security beneficiaries who aren’t comfortable using the Internet and who don’t hear well over the phone, others have no other choice, Weiner said.
“If you’re bringing your birth certification or your naturalization certification, you don’t want to drop them off,” she said.
The West Palm Beach office moved to Congress Avenue in 2007. At the time, it saw about 2,000 clients a week. It has been one of the busiest offices in South Florida, which with so many retirees, in one of the busiest parts of the country for Social Security services.
While the West Palm Beach location is closed, Social Security services are available at:
Belle Glade – 925 SE 1st St., Belle Glade– 855-257-0983
Delray Beach – 14548 S Military Trail, Delray Beach – 877-512-5953
Port St Lucie – 6810 S US Hwy 1, Port St Lucie – 866-366-1627
North Broward – 5195 Coconut Creek Pkwy, Margate – 866-704-4856