Burke: sensitization of vulnerable populations during the pandemic


By Chris Burke | Social security administration

People struggling with low income, limited English proficiency, homelessness, or mental illness have always relied on meeting us in person at our local offices to get the help they need. Currently, Social Security offices are only open for in-person appointments for limited and critical situations, depending on local office conditions.

If you are unable to use our online services, please call your local office or our national 800 number for assistance. If we cannot help you over the phone, your local office can determine if an in-person appointment or other option may be available to assist you.

To serve those who need us most, we have partnered with community groups to launch a national awareness campaign.

The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness of our Social Security Supplementary Income Security and Disability Insurance benefit programs and to support third-party groups that help vulnerable people apply for benefits. The SSI and SSDI programs provide essential financial assistance and, in many cases, provide access to health care and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

Key elements of our awareness campaign include:

• Work with community groups that can help accept applications for SSI and SSDI.

• Launched a national advertising campaign on television, radio and social media, with a focus on benefits for children with disabilities.

• Added new online tools and information pages, including resources for people helping others to access our services at www.ssa.gov/thirdparty, outreach materials for partner groups working with populations vulnerable groups at www.ssa.gov/thirdparty/groups/vulnerable-populations .html and updated information for faith and community groups, including a new toolkit and fact sheets on SSI and SSDI, at l ‘address https://www.ssa.gov/thirdparty/groups/faithandcommunity.html.

We would like to thank the White House Office of Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships for their work with us and for sharing our website and products with their national network of community leaders.

We would also like to thank the members of the plaintiff advocacy community for their cooperation in this campaign. We will be presenting their views on serving vulnerable populations on our blog in the coming weeks. Be sure to visit and subscribe to blog.ssa.gov to receive alerts when we publish new articles from our partners and share the latest information on our national awareness campaign.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day takes place on June 15.

On this day, and throughout the month, communities, older people, caregivers, governments, organizations and the private sector come together to prevent elder abuse and violence.

Social Security impostor scams are rife in the United States. Scammers use sophisticated tactics to trick you into providing sensitive information or money. They target everyone – even the elderly – and their tactics continue to evolve.

More recently, the Office of the Inspector General of Social Security has received reports of phone scammers creating fake versions of the ID badges that most federal employees use to gain access to federal buildings.

Scammers can text or email photos of the fake badges to convince potential victims of their legitimacy. These badges use government symbols, words, and even names and photos of real people, which are available on government websites or through internet searches.

If you receive a suspicious letter, text, email, or call, hang up or don’t answer. You need to know how to identify when it really comes to Social Security. We never go:

• Text or electronic images of the official identification of an employee by the government.

• Suspend your social security number.

• Threatening you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or costs.

• Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash by mail.

• Promise increased benefits or other assistance in exchange for payment.

• Send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.

We only send SMS if you have chosen to receive SMS from us and only in limited situations, including the following:

• When you have subscribed to receive updates and text notifications.

• As part of our enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account.

If you owe us money, we’ll send you a letter with payment options and appeal rights.

We encourage you to report suspected Social Security impostor scams – and other Social Security frauds – on the OIG website at oig.ssa.gov. You can read our previous Social Security fraud notices at oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-release. Please share this information with your friends and family to help spread awareness of Social Security impostor scams.

Chris Burke is a District Social Security Director based in Glendale.

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