The government has been steadily closing the number of Social Security offices around the country for over a decade, effectively shutting down nearly a tenth of its offices around the nation.

Lawmakers have given various reasons for the closings. They mention everything from the issues they’ve had with funding to the fact that many services provided by the agency (including many disability applications) are now available online.

However, despite all the online services, visits to field offices have actually increased by five percent in two years. Claimants and recipients alike can’t get the same level of expertise or real answers to complicated questions online. For that, they really need the expertise of a human claims representative.

In addition, the process of filing for disability benefits is confusing and convoluted, and the people who are in that situation simply can’t afford to make a mistake. A mistake on an initial application for Social Security Disability benefits could cause a claim to be unfairly denied.

A denial often results in forcing the claimant to endure a long waiting period while the claim works its way through the system all over again. If the claim gets denied again, the disabled individual can literally wait years to get a hearing in front of the Administrative Law Judge.

In the offices that do remain open, wait times are getting longer. This puts an additional burden on the elderly and disabled. Many have to take public transportation to their local offices and then have to endure a long wait once they get there in a crowded office before they speak to someone. Then, if the office is closing or there’s no one available with the skills to help them, they’re forced to make an appointment or come back and try again.

The elderly and disabled don’t deserve this kind of treatment. The only way to change the situation is to put increasing pressure on government officials through letters and calls to ask them to reverse course. Many representatives are already working toward that goal, but they need as much support as they can get.

In addition, it’s important to take steps to minimize mistakes on your application for disability benefits. Any mistake is one too many, and it could force you to endure unnecessary hardships.