Social Security office reaching out to county

Published 2:41 pm Monday, March 15, 2010

There was a time when Demopolis had a Social Security office, but downsizing forced that office and several others nationwide to close down. To help others with questions they may have about Social Security, the Social Security Administration office in Selma sends representatives to small towns once a month.

Willie Mae Seele, a claims representative with the Selma office with 33 years’ experience in Social Security, came to Demopolis and Linden on Thursday and spoke about her work.

“We don’t carry computers, so mainly, what we do is Social Security card replacements and change of names for Social Security cards,” she said. “If someone wants to file a claim for benefits, we will take down their information and make them an appointment for one of our representatives to call them on the phone. They will know what day and time we’re going to call because we’ll send them a letter. People can do this themselves on the phone, but they like to see people face-to-face.”

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Seele (pronounced SEE-lee) said she can’t do that kind of work herself because she doesn’t bring a laptop computer with her on her rounds.

“Mostly, I work with Social Security card applications, because we have to see original documents for that, like driver’s licenses and passports,” she said. “People don’t want to mail those things; you really can’t do without your driver’s license! So, they either have to drive to Selma so we can see those original documents or come down here. I think that’s the main reason they haven’t done away with these trips.”

Seele said that people who want to ask her Social Security questions should have their Social Security number and a driver’s license, which is a photo ID.

“I’m here to answer questions,” she said. “A lot of questions are about Medicaid and the new prescription drug plan and how they can get in touch with someone to help them pick a plan. Social Security covers extra help for the premiums, and people want to apply for the extra help. Sometimes, it helps people pay for the Part D premiums, but they have to apply to see if they are eligible for the extra help.”

Seele said the Selma office services seven counties, but said that there may come a time soon when the main office would stop having the field trips.

“We don’t take claims, so I guess the expense of the trips (would be a reason to stop them),” she said. “Having us out of the office is something they really don’t want. We aren’t as productive as we would be if we were in the office taking claims. I am a claims rep, and here I am out in the field all day. I’m not taking any claims, but I am getting leads, but that’s it. They really want me in the office.”

Seele said she sees 20 to 30 people on average with each trip she makes.

“There are usually 20 to 30 people waiting on me when I get to these places,” she said. “I go to Livingston, and a lot of times, there are students there wanting Social Security cards. I see more people out here than I would if I were in the office. I really enjoy coming out to the field.”

With the nearest Social Security office being 50 or more miles away, having a representative come to the people is convenient, saving time for people seeking questions and giving them the information that they need.