The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on daily life for billions of people around the world. For older Americans on Social Security, dealing with recent disruptions has proven especially challenging, and the many services that have closed their doors are putting a big strain on the well-being of millions of Social Security recipients.

Recently, the federal government announced that the Social Security Administration's local offices across the nation would close to the public. That sent a new wave of nervousness into the hearts of those who rely on Social Security, but there's no reason to panic. Let's look at what's happening and what you'll need to do to get the service you're counting on from the SSA.

Building with words Social Security Administration on side.

Image source: Getty Images.

Social Security has seen something like this before

The government response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented on many fronts. But for those on Social Security, there've been situations during which local SSA offices closed their doors briefly. Every time there's a threat of a government shutdown, Social Security recipients have to brace for potential local office closures.

As a result, people have a sense of what to expect when their Social Security offices close:

  • Social Security benefits continue to get paid out without disruption.
  • Online services, including all the information on the Social Security website and the various tools for looking at your own specific Social Security record, are still available.

Why things aren't as bad as they've been in the past

In fact, this situation is actually a bit better than what people have experienced during brief government shutdowns. That's because local Social Security offices aren't entirely shut down. Although they're closed to the public for in-person service, staffers are still on site handling people's needs.

To be clear, though, local offices are planning to work only on critical items for Social Security recipients. People should call if they're facing situations like not having received your regular benefit payments or needing to have payments reinstated. Those facing severe disability, blindness, or terminal illness can call to have their needs met, as can those who require the SSA to conduct the mandated eligibility decisions for Medicaid approvals.

That means you might have to wait until later for certain in-person services. That includes getting a new or replacement Social Security card or having your benefits verified. Again, though, those services are also available through online channels.

Something to watch out for

People on Social Security should always be worried about potential scammers trying to get their personal information. One comment the SSA made in its press release is therefore of particular note: It's possible that Social Security employees trying to reach you to reschedule in-person appointments might call you from their private phones, rather than U.S. government numbers. That would ordinarily be a serious red flag, but in this case, it's what the SSA itself is saying. The agency is still reminding people that no call will ask you for payment or make threats.

As older Americans go through an unprecedented time in our history, it's completely understandable that they'd be nervous about their Social Security benefits. Even with the SSA taking precautions to keep people from having to congregate at local offices in a way that could foster spread of the coronavirus, Social Security recipients can count on the same benefits they've relied on for years.