WASHINGTON – In a joint letter from a coalition of organizations concerned about Social Security, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and 30 national organizations called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to stop a plan that would cut two vital services provided at SSA Field Offices across the country: the provision of Social Security Number print outs and benefit verification notices.
“Two basic services that Americans expect from the Social Security Administration are about to disappear and they deserve to know the truth about how it affects them,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr. “Seniors need the face-to-face service that these field offices provide and people who are already struggling to get back to work don’t need one more obstacle to employment.”
The Coalition letter states that, using SSA’s own data, 11 million people came into SSA field offices for these forms last year. SSA’s plan does not represent cost savings, it represents a loss of absolutely critical services to millions of people. These forms are used to determine income eligibility for a wide range of government programs, to apply for loans or mortgages and to provide job applicants with immediate access to a forgotten Social Security number.
SSA must enact the obvious solution: to allow the public access to these documents at a field office, online or using a telephone 800 number.
The administration should not abandon Americans who rely on SSA’s network of 1,250 field offices for these critical services. As of August 1, SSA will require people seeking SSN printouts to use the 800 number or obtain them through the MY SSA website. They will do the same for benefit verification notices as of October 1.
The average busy rate in fiscal 2013 for answering telephone calls on the 800 number network was triple what it was in fiscal 2012. If the plan is implemented, it would add potentially millions of more calls to the existing system.
Similarly, MY SSA, the online service site, is not yet ready to handle existing traffic let alone the prospect of requests that would have been filled in the field offices. It is unlikely that most Americans know their astrological sign or car payment terms off-hand, yet MY SSA requires correct answers to these or similar questions in order to access the system. Americans also deserve to know that their information will be safe on the site and how it will be used once it’s online.
The coalition of organizations has offered to work with SSA to create a plan that would continue these vital services for Americans in communities across the country.