The federal Social Security Administration on Tuesday resumed face-to-face visits in Kona and has scheduled two more visits at the West Hawaii Civic Center before once again discontinuing the service.
Social Security had discontinued the Kona visits in November because of budget cuts. But the office announced late Tuesday that it would hold visits that day as well as March 19 and April 9. It’s not known what hours the visits will occur; a telephone call to the Kapolei office was not returned Tuesday afternoon.
Samiah Omari, district manager of the Kapolei office, said in a statement that Social Security is dedicated to setting up video service in Kona in the future as a way to enable seniors to maintain contact with the office. Social Security is working with Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, to get videoconferencing in place sometime this year.
“We are currently working with Senator Hirono’s office to determine the best location for the video equipment,” Omari said. “This service will allow us to provide face-to-face service to the residents of Kona and West Hawaii.”
Bruce Bottorff, communications director for AARP Hawaii, said his office had contacted Hirono’s office after Social Security announced it was discontinuing the visits, causing Kona-area seniors to contact AARP.
“As soon as we found out that service to Kona was closing, we were highly concerned,” Bottorff said. “We’ve had (AARP) members and members of the public who felt this was a rolling back of services.”
Bottorff said AARP has offered to help staff videoconferencing services with its volunteers; arrangements have not yet been finalized.
In a recent letter to Hirono, San Francisco Regional Commissioner Bill Zielinski wrote, “We are committed to finding alternate ways to serve the residents of Kona and the West Hawaii area.”
The Social Security Administration believes most Social Security business does not require an in-person visit, because information and services are available at socialsecurity.gov.
In addition, Social Security’s national toll-free number, (800) 772-1213, features an automatic information service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Representatives are available from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. EST Monday through Friday to answer questions, schedule appointments or make changes to an existing record.
Service is available in Hilo on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Hilo Social Security Office located at 111 East Puainako Street.