I have a few observations about my visit:
- It is against the law to kill, kidnap, abuse or otherwise harm a Social Security Administrator while they are performing their duties. Funny, I thought it was illegal to do this period. Well, just so you know, this warning is posted on the wall.
- Make an appointment if at all possible. This will cut your wait time down to one hour. If you try calling in advance for information or to make an appointment, expect the direct line to be busy. Call the 1-800 number so you can speak to the computer and get nowhere.
- If you walk in and wait, your estimated wait time is well over 2 hours, even if they tell you it will be approximately 90 minutes. And, whatever you do, don't leave the room once you check in (even to use the restroom). If they call you after you've checked in and you don't respond, you will lose your turn. Also, consider bringing your own seating as there are not enough chairs to accommodate everyone.
- Don't bring your kids. Children cannot sit and wait patiently for hours on end. The Social Security Administration does not provide entertainment for kids nor do they appreciate your children using the water fountain as their personal sprinkler toy.
- Don't bother bringing your camera to take candid images of your experience. This is posted on the entrance door: "No Cameras or Photographs Allowed!"
- Even though there are several service windows, only one will be open at any given time. You will, however, see many Social Security Administrators conjugated beyond the walls and wonder why they are not assisting people.
- You cannot obtain a Social Security card for any person other than yourself, if they are not infants or incapacitated, even with their identification in hand. You must apply in person. Three "customers" tried to do this while I was waiting.
- Proper identification is your state issued driver's license or identification card, military ID, green card, or passport. Your library card does not qualify. If you provide ID other than the above accepted, you will be turned away and have to return for another long wait time. This happened twice during my visit.
- Even though there is a television in the waiting room to help pass the time, don't expect it to be on.
- The Social Security Administration has a security guard to keep people in line and assist you. However, they are uninformative and allowed to ignore you while they play on their cell phones and surf the Internet on their provided desktop computer.
- When you visit the offices, don't be shy. Expect to gain some lifetime friends, or perhaps a new partner, when you conduct business there. With the tight quarters, limited seating, and long wait time you will become too close for comfort and have your personal space invaded.
Of course, before I went to the office in person, I had an online encounter with the Social Security website. Posted everywhere in the office are signs telling you to conduct most of your Social Security business online to save time and hassle. Sadly, you can only get a new card in person. Here's some of my online observations:
- The website has links that give you 404 messages.
- The pdf links to forms are as slow as molasses.
- The office locator does not allow you to directly zoom or expand the map and the written directions are rather sketchy.
In San Antonio there is only one office to get a new Social Security card. This office is located downtown in the center of the city. It is also over 75 miles from my home-not very convenient. I would think Social Security, as big as it is, would have more service centers especially in a city the size of San Antonio.
I searched the office locator with several different zip codes hoping to find an office closer to me. I had no luck plugging San Antonio zip codes, only the downtown office popped up. You can only search for offices by zip code, by the way. But they do have a link for you to look up zip codes if you need to, and you will.
Finally, I went outside of the box and plugged in some zip codes from surrounding towns and found an office about 35 miles from my home.
In the end, my business with the Social Security Administration is done. I can expect my new card to arrive in the mail in 4 to 6 weeks!
Wait, I just had a funny thought, you can go to the office of Vital Statistics where you were born, or died, and get a certified birth or death certificate immediately. Why can't Social Security cards be printed immediately?
Also, in the office, they have signs posted about identity theft prevention and to guard from throwing your Social Security card in the trash. I can expect my card in the mail, regular mail, that is placed in a box that sits unguarded on the side of the road. What's to prevent someone from pilfering my Social Security card from my mailbox? I mean, if they'll dig in the trash to steal an identity, surely they'll steal mail too.