Posted on November 13, 2012
The American Federation of Government Employees joined other Social Security advocacy groups and organizations in requesting adequate funding be dedicated to SSA operations in the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget. In a letter to Office of Management and Budget(OMB) Acting Director Jeffrey Zients, coalition groups have expressed the need for SSA to be properly funded in order to administer complex programs, meet the agency’s ever-increasing workloads, and increase staffing and resources.
To read the letter in its entirety please click the graphic below.
Posted on October 9, 2012
The AFGE Social Security Council expressed concerns today about plans by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reduce the number of hours at field offices open to the public. According to the agency’s announcement, as of November 19, 2012, offices that now close at 3:30 pm will close at 3:00. Offices will close at noon on Wednesdays beginning on January 2, 2013.
“This decision is a deliberate attempt by Commissioner Astrue to deny Social Security beneficiaries and the public access to critical information they need to successfully navigate the System” said Council President Witold Skwierczynski. “46 Social Security Offices have been closed over the past 21 months, field office staff have been cut, and over 300 contact station around the country have closed. The pattern is clear, SSA is saying to the public, ‘we are getting out of the service business, you’re on your own’.
Under Commissioner Astrue, the Agency has pursued an aggressive agenda of moving all applications, benefit inquiries and other questions onto the internet. “The problem is that they are moving so quickly, they are leaving thousands of people behind. These are people who were denied benefits or received lower benefits that they were eligible for because they did not have access to a SSA claims representative who could guide them through the claims process. The internet is an important tool for SSA but it should not be used as a vehicle to deny Americans the benefits to which they are entitled” said Skwierczynski. Many claimants are unable to navigate complex retirement and disability applications on the Internet and require face to face service to properly complete their applications. Reduced service hours will force the public to fend for themselves on the Internet. Union surveys of employees who review Internet claims indicate that those who file on the Internet often make errors that can cost permanent loss of thousands of dollars of benefits.
The Union has urged the Agency to seek alternatives to cuts in the field office structure including eliminating a bloated management structure that includes unnecessary layers of management and 42 all management offices that cost millions in rent and perform no direct service for the American public. Reducing office hours while keeping unnecessary offices for high graded managers who do not take or review claims is a sign of misplaced government priorities said Skwierczynski.
“Finally, we have heard recently that SSA plans to spend $55 million to build a fence around the headquarters building. Apparently even when the nation is overwhelmed with debt, SSA can find money when it wants to” Skwiercznski concluded.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Posted on July 25, 2012
Offices in Mississippi; Alaska; Kentucky; Washington, DC; Georgia; and Iowa slated to close September 30.
(Washington) – Representatives from the National Social Security Council say that planned closures at Social Security Administration (SSA) could limit access to social security offices for thousands of Americans.
Offices in Biloxi, Mississippi; Ketchikan, Alaska; Louisville, KY; Shepherd Park, DC; Moultrie, GA; and Clinton, IA, are slated to close September 30, 2012, leaving thousands of Americans without access to benefits information, SSA resources, and service representatives. Two offices in Seattle have already been consolidated, which resulted in service downgrades to seniors and the disabled in that area.
“These closings will really devastate the communities,” said National Social Security Council President Witold Skwiercynzski. “SSA should be in the business of making sure that offices are available to help people that have been paying into Social Security for years.”
The SSA says the office closings are due to budget cuts at the agency. Recent efforts to lower costs have led to moving many forms and resources online. However, the Council claims that these forms are confusing and not accessible to citizens without Internet access, making it difficult for people to access the services they need.
SSA claims that citizens who need to physically go to SSA offices can go to the nearest office, but residents using the Ketchikan, Alaska, office will have to travel 300 miles to visit the next closest SSA office in Juneau. Likewise, social security recipients who are disabled or who take the bus to and from local SSA offices may not be able to access other facilities.
“We don’t need less offices, we need a lot more,” said Skwiercynzski. “Millions of baby boomers are reaching retirement and thousands of veterans are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. These people need and deserve easy access to social security offices and to their earned benefits and resources.”
“SSA occupies over 40 Area Director offices that are full of high graded management officials who provide no direct service to the public. SSA could close these offices and consolidate them with existing space in the regional office and save millions. Instead the agency seems more interested in damaging communities by closing full service SSA offices and forcing the public to fend for themselves on the Internet or to travel inordinate distances to complete their Social Security business,” said Skwiercynzski.
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The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Posted on January 5, 2012
Social Security Administration employees who have received lower performance ratings from their managers without any advance notice that their performance was declining may be able to get their ratings reversed. Arbitrator Linda Johnson has found that SSA violated its national collective bargaining agreement with AFGE by lowering an employee’s annual performance rating in a particular job element without first notifying the employee that her performance expectations were being changed or providing the employee with any advance notice that she was in danger of receiving a lower rating. The arbitrator also noted that the Personnel Policy Manual Standards used by management to determine employee performance levels are too vague to allow for objective performance reviews. The employee was represented by Louetta Keene, Vice President for AFGE Local 1164 in Lowell, Mass.