Federal Employees News Digest

SSA closures caused more harm than good

The Social Security Administration has closed hundreds of agency offices as part of an effort by SSA administrators to bring greater “efficiency” to the agency, but a recent SSA Inspector General report finds that the cuts have brought on worse service and produced no significant savings.

According to the report studying the on-the-ground outcomes of “Vision 2020," the official name of the program mandating the closures, “[T]he public’s satisfaction with [field office] hours decreased” as a result. “The public was sometimes unaware and personally affected by the reduced [Social Security Field Office] hours,” the report stated.

The report noted that not just the public, but employees have been negatively affected: SSA managers at some field offices report numerous problems caused by the reduced public hours, including “increased wait times, crowded lobbies, and limited appointment availability.”

In response to the findings, J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement, “This report confirms that the public roundly rejects closing Social Security community offices, reducing staff, and slashing hours. The agency thought that closing offices early would result in saved time and better service, but the audit shows the just opposite." He added, "Many who had taken precious time off from work or traveled long distances weren’t met with the customer service they deserve – they were met with a ‘CLOSED’ sign. Those who were lucky enough to make it under the contracted schedule were greeted with long waits and even longer lines."

However, some field office managers reported that the reduced public hours improved workload processing, staff training and even morale. 

But still, Cox contends that the agency "should scrap its plan to close community offices and refocus on delivering beneficiaries the services they earned." 

See the report at: http://oig.ssa.gov/sites/default/files/audit/full/pdf/A-01-14-14039.pdf; read Cox's statement at: http://www.afge.org/?PressReleaseID=1676.

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