WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees recently sent a letter to the Democratic members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, detailing the harmful effects of agency budget reductions on Social Security Administration services and programs. “Any reductions below the FY 12 budget request will have adverse consequences,” stated AFGE National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations Locals President Witold Skwierczynski, who was briefed by SSA officials on different budget reduction scenarios. “Further cuts below the current FY 11 baseline will lead to furloughs, staffing reductions, office closings, longer wait times and general dissatisfaction with the Social Security system itself.”
The agency already has closed 19 offices to date in 2011. AFGE expects that number to increase significantly before the end of the year, determining that as many as 515 offices could be at risk of closure.
“By closing Social Security offices, SSA is effectively removing face-to-face community based service from thousands of customers,” explained Skwierczynski. “SSA’s customers are senior citizens, survivors of a deceased wage earner, disabled people and the poor. Many of these people are unable to effectively communicate their issues to with SSA through telephone or through the Internet. Eliminating community based services from this population is outrageous and intolerable.”
Agency officials also indicated that the majority of employees lost in FY 11 and those projected to be lost in FY 12 are people who work directly with the public in field offices or teleservice centers answering telephone calls. “The impact of losing these employees is already being felt throughout the country,” said Skwierczynski.
“The threat to the Social Security system by budget reductions and those who seek to dismantle the program is real and immediate,” concluded Skwierczynski. “Actions by the Joint Select Committee on deficit Reduction to reduce either benefits or administration will not reduce the federal deficit but will continue an inexorable process of eroding the most successful social program in our history. We urge the committee to oppose reductions in spending below the FY 12 budget request, a level which will preserve the quality of service beneficiaries and workers have come to expect from the Social Security Administration.”