Hurts Elderly and Poor
"SSA argues that bricks and mortar are expenses; people should file claims on the Internet," Mr. Scweirczynsnki said. "The union says people deserve the option of face-to-face service."
He argued that the elderly, the disabled and the poor were less likely to use the Internet or able to find transportation to take them to other agency field offices and would be the most negatively affected.
"SSA's taxes are now running huge surpluses," he said. "Administrative expenses should be the first use of that tax money."
Along with retiree and consumer advocates, AFGE voiced its support for a bill sponsored last month by New York Rep. Brian Higgins that would put a six-month moratorium on field-office closings and force the agency to explain to Congress its reasoning behind any shutdowns.
Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, blamed the current administration for understaffing and other problems in the agency. He said that Social Security has been under assault by President Bush and the Republicans ever since the President unsuccessfully pushed a partial privatization plan in 2005.
"Folks should be on their own. Live or die. Prosper or perish," Mr. Woodhouse described the administration's outlook. "It's this warped 'you're on your own' ideology."