Inundated by requests for its new personalized benefit estimates, the Social Security Administration has added 366 new phone lines answered by people instead of a computer.
"Obviously, many, many Americans were getting busy signals," Phil Gambino, a spokesman for the agency, said Wednesday. "Now people are getting through on the first ring. We're hoping those who got a busy signal last week will call us back."Social Security Administrator Dorcas R. Hardy unveiled the new "personal earnings and benefit estimate statements" on Aug. 4.
To get them, workers must fill out an application form, SSA-7004, that they can obtain by calling a toll-free number - 1-800-937-2000 - or writing the Consumer Information Center, Department 55, Social Security, Pueblo, CO 81009.
The request forms also are available at any of the 1,300 local Social Security offices nationwide.
Because people were confused by the computer or the computer didn't understand the addresses being given and asked for repeats, it was handling only about 2,500 calls an hour, Gambino said.
To handle the heavy public demand, he said the agency added 216 more lines answered by employees and contracted for another 120 lines through a private company, all on the same 800 number.
Gambino said the agency has received nearly 700,000 requests for the forms in the first two weeks the service has been available.
Once the forms are filled out with a participant's estimate of his or her future earnings, Social Security will calculate estimates of monthly retirement benefits in today's dollars at ages 62, 65, and 70.
Based on the agency's own rec-ords, the statement also will include the monthly benefits for a worker and family upon disability or death.
Social Security officials said recipients should receive the detailed financial statements, listing the amount of various benefits they have earned or will have earned, two to four weeks after the agency receives the request form.