I am sure by now many of you have heard the news. Beginning Aug. 15, the Oneonta Social Security office will be closing to the public at 3:30 p.m. every weekday instead of 4 p.m.

This is not just happening in Oneonta. After Congress provided us with nearly $1 billion less than the president requested for our administrative budget this fiscal year, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue ordered all offices around the country to close to the public 30 minutes early each day. Local Social Security offices nationwide have lost nearly 1,600 workers over the past nine months, and we cannot afford to replace that staff.

All employees will continue to work their regular hours to complete face-to face service activities such as interviews without using overtime.

Because there is so much to do, I am constantly thinking of ways to save time, both at work and in my personal life. There just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. Since I know you value your own personal time as much as I do, I will share some helpful tips that may make your interactions with the Social Security office more efficient and less time-consuming.

When calling or visiting the Social Security office, have your Social Security number, as well as the claim number you are calling about, readily available. Waiting to start looking for the number until you get a representative on the phone or until you see the receptionist really slows things down.

If you have questions about a notice you received in the mail, please have the notice with you. Being able to show or tell us the date on the notice will help move things along.

If you are coming into the office, always bring proper identification. Protecting your personal information is of the utmost importance to us. We cannot release details regarding Social Security records unless we are positive you have a right to the information. The only people who may have access to your records are you, your representative payee, or your authorized representative. Please remember, Social Security does not recognize power of attorney.

Upon entering our office, your first stop will be at our self check-in touch-screen computer. Think of it as an electronic receptionist.

We ask that everyone who visits the office to conduct Social Security business use the computer to let us know that you are here and the reason for your visit. Whether the reception area is full of people, or you are the only one in sight, it is important to check in so we can keep track of the number of people visiting the office and the order in which you arrive.

Don't let the technology scare you. It is a quick and simple process, and there is always a Social Security employee nearby if you need assistance.

Last but not least, if you have an issue that you think may take longer than a few minutes at the front desk, please try to schedule an appointment. As I mentioned, we don't have as many employees as we have in the past, and it is likely that without an appointment, you may be waiting for longer than you'd like to see someone. Of course, you are always welcome to stop in, just be aware that if you do not have an appointment, you could be waiting a while.

Remember that many Social Security services are provided on our website or by calling our national toll-free number.

You can apply for benefits, sign up for direct deposit, request a replacement Medicare card, obtain a proof of income letter or change your address by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov or calling (800) 772-1213.

Please know that regardless of the circumstances, each one of us at the Oneonta Social Security office is dedicated to helping you with all of your Social Security needs. Remembering these simple timesavers could give us all a few spare moments in our otherwise hectic lives.

tracey L. weaver is district manager of the Oneonta office of the Social Security Administration.

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