February 20, 2006
Kurt Gallagher
(202) 639-6491

SSA Bows to AFGE Pressure on Hurricane Assistance

WASHINGTON—AFGE’s National Social Security Council today announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has bowed to AFGE pressure to provide financial support to employees who are victims of Hurricane Katrina. According to Council President Witold Skwierczynski, because SSA failed in its responsibility to assist employees who were victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma the Council filed a national grievance against the agency in December of last year. Under federal guidelines employees of the U.S. government must request disaster assistance from their employer prior to seeking aid from FEMA. In the days following Hurricane Katrina many federal agencies launched immediate assistance and outreach programs for affected employees, but not SSA.

“At last the hundreds of Social Security employees and their family members who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina will receive the financial support they need, but were never provided,” said Skwierczynski. “Now if only the agency will do the same for employees who were victims of Hurricanes Rita and Wilma. Whether or not Americans receive disaster assistance should never depend on who their employer is or which disaster impacted them.”

SSA announced in a memo issued recently by Deputy Commissioner Dale W. Sopper that the agency would pay employees and members of their immediate family a per diem for up to 30 days and a special subsistence allowance for up to six months following Hurricane Katrina. Skwierczynski explained that the memo resolves a portion of its national grievance. Outstanding issues include financial assistance for employees who were impacted by Hurricanes Rita and Wilma; granting of administrative leave; payment of relocation and local commuting expenses; and health and safety concerns.

“While we are pleased that SSA finally has decided to fulfill its financial responsibility to some employees, serious issues have yet to be resolved. Agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration deserve public accolades for their efforts to assist the public and employees. It is unfortunate that SSA had to be shamed into taking responsible action,” said Skwierczynski.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. The National Social Security Council, officially known as the National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals (AFGE Council 220), represents about 28,000 employees of the Social Security Administration who work in field offices and national calling centers.

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