To The Reader's Forum:
There is ongoing debate over the future ability of Social Security to pay its obligations. Some argue it is already, or will soon be bankrupt. The fact is that whatever the concern, the liability for payment of benefits will be met sooner or later, one way or another. The so-called crisis is looming, but is not imminent.
However, there is a related crisis that is imminent, which is the administrative budget of SSA is in serious jeopardy due to partisan politics. The administrative budget is what pays for field offices where staff provide direct, personal service. Annual partisan budget battles in the Congress, as well as the "sequester," have cut back SSA's ability to properly staff field offices, and if not reversed, will lead to office closures. Can you imagine no field office in Jamestown?
Right now the Jamestown office has eight full time non-management staff. In the mid-1980s there were 29 non-management staff. Admittedly, technological advances have made fewer staff more productive, but SSA has been unable to replace staff who are lost to retirement or other reasons.
Nationally, SSA has reduced its public hours as a first step in reducing personal service. Waiting times in offices are long. SSA is pushing the public to use the Internet. Offices are overloaded with work they cannot process timely. Without adequate funding the situation in field offices will only deteriorate.
My point, and my concern on behalf of SSA workers and the public we serve, is that the ability of SSA to administer the benefits (and other essential services to non-beneficiaries) will be lost long before the issue of funding the benefits comes to a head.
Perhaps groups like AARP care, but right now Congress does not care about field offices and personal service. If you care, you need to let Congressman Reed know what he needs to do to protect and preserve your rights. End partisan politics and fund SSA so it can do its job to provide the service the public deserves.
Paul L. Demler
President AFGE Local 3342