The SSA has been reducing its physical footprint as it migrates more services from in-person to online delivery but the number of visits from members of the public has not decreased, GAO has said.

A report said that the agency shrank its 1,500 facilities by about 1.4 million square feet, 5 percent, over 2012-2016 as it expands services it offers remotely, such as online disability and retirement applications, conducting hearings via videoconferencing, and allowing online customers to interact directly with SSA staff in real time. However, in-person contacts have remained steady for 10 years at about 43 million due to growing demand for services as well as certain services not yet being fully available online.

“While SSA has a strategic goal of re-thinking its footprint as it expands remote service delivery, it lacks a facility plan that links to this goal, as called for by facility planning criteria. Without a plan that considers the increasing use of online services and wide variation in online service use across field offices, SSA may miss opportunities to further reduce its footprint,” it said.

It added that SSA “is taking steps to make remote services easier to use, for example by adding new features to its website and offering alternate approaches for accessing services, but does not consistently evaluate them.”

SSA agreed with recommendations that it develop a facility plan for reconfiguring its footprint as it expands remote service delivery, track staff follow-ups of online applications, and develop performance goals for alternate service approaches.