Bill would address SSA office closures

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has introduced a bill that would require the Social Security Administration to provide the public with 180 days of advance notice and a public comment period before proceeding with closures of SSA community offices.

The Social Security Access Act of 2014 (S. 2742) also would require SSA to consider collocating offices targeted for closure with other agencies, and would require the agency to conduct community impact assessments for proposed closures.

“Sen. Schumer’s bill brings much-needed accountability to the Social Security Administration’s community office closings and sheds light on the impact they have on at-risk populations,” said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents SSA employees. “This bill must be enacted before another community is deprived of vital services and the expertise of local SSA staff.”

According to AFGE, SSA in recent years has trimmed back field office hours at community offices—and closed more than 70 of them—which the union said leaves many communities without easy access to essential SSA services.

SSA has said that many services currently provided by those offices can be handled online or via phone, and that savings generated by shifting users to those resources help it to preserve its field office structure for those who seek face-to-face contact.

However, the union maintains that SSA actions do not reflect a dedication to face-to-face service. AFGE noted that last week SSA local offices stopped providing a key in-person service—Social Security number printouts—which last year 11 million people acquired at community SSA offices. The printouts are used for a number of purposes, such as applying for car loans, mortgages, housing assistance and other government programs.

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