WASHINGTON - The National Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today demanded specifics on plans by Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart to revamp policies and procedures for determining eligibility and providing ongoing benefits to persons with disabilities.
The details of the changes were scheduled to be made public during a congressional hearing held by the House Ways and Means Subcommittees on Social Security and Human Resources on September 30. However, Commissioner Barnhart skipped all specifics in her testimony and instead promised to provide a detailed proposal inserted into the Congressional Record via supplemental documentation. Although nearly one month has passed since the hearing, no transcript or detailed information has been made available to the public.
"We are very concerned about intended changes to the disability system based upon what we've been hearing from inside the Social Security Administration," said Witold Skwierczynski, president of the National Social Security Council. "We made numerous requests for more information long before the September 30 hearing. The people we serve, disabled Americans, are still waiting for the details of the proposed changes nearly one month after Commissioner Barnhart failed to elaborate on them in a public hearing before Congress. Why the stonewalling? What is the Social Security Administration trying to hide?"
Skwierczynski also cited comments made by President Bush recently reported in The New York Times as even more reason to be concerned about the future of disability programs under Social Security. On October 17, The New York Times quoted President Bush as stating. ''I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in [next year] with* privatizing of Social Security." (brackets added by AFGE)
"The Social Security disability program is much too important to be restructured through backroom agreements. To plot these changes in an election year without any sort of public debate is utterly inexcusable," said Skwierczynski.