(WASHINGTON)-Long waits, backlogs, limited access, a growing potential for identity theft and the closing of dozens of field offices nationwide are among the myriad of problems that now face the Social Security Administration, according to the head of the union that represents employees at the agency. Witold Skwierczynski, president of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals 220 testified Wednesday before the full House Ways and Means Committee on “clearing the backlog” at SSA.
Skwierczynski told members of Congress that while the Social Security Administration is a long way from being “broke”—as the Bush Administration has purported—the agency has lost focus of its primary mission to provide quality service to Americans.
“Social Security is in dire need of both additional administration funding and congressional oversight of its service delivery practices,” said Skwierczynski. “The dedicated employees of SSA have been trying to do more with less for years and now budget cuts and staffing shortages are taking a toll on the system.”
In addition to increasing the FY09 funding, Skwierczynski said Congress must provide oversight to the whole disability appeal process and clear up backlogs. “Many percent of those not receiving proper disability allotments are veterans,” he said.
Furthermore, Social Security has loosened its evidentiary standards with no requirements for claimants to show of proof of age, proof of recent wages, or proof of citizenship. “This leaves the system open to all kinds of fraud and abuse,” he added. “It could also result in incorrect benefit payments.”
Skwierczynski told the Committee that while the agency is stressing increased Internet usage by taxpayers that only creates another set of problems. He says those that use the complicated Internet system often have to be contacted by the agency to correct or verify information from their applications. “For millions of Americans access to a computer is difficult. Sure people can go to their local library, but people shouldn’t have to fill out private information—like a Social Security form—on a public computer,” he said.Full Testimony