SSA union president
testifies before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social
(WASHINGTON)—Declaring that the Social
Security Administration (SSA) is lacking the funding needed to deal with
the tremendous workloads resulting from retiring baby boomers and the
recession, the president of the National Council of SSA Field Operations
Locals of the American Federation of Government Employees made an
impassioned appeal for additional resources and manpower at Social
Security Administration field offices and teleservice centers to enable
the agency to carry out its critical mission.
“The primary message AFGE wants to convey, with regard to service to
the public, is that Social Security field offices and teleservice
centers are in dire need of both increased staffing and Congressional
oversight of its service delivery practices. Congressional oversight
would hold SSA management accountable as to how funds have been and will
be used to effectively carry out the mission of the agency, to meet
expected levels of performance, to achieve modern customer-responsive
service, and to protect program integrity,” stated Witold Skwierczynski,
of the AFGE National Council of Field Operations Locals.
“While budgets from FY 2009 and FY 2010 offer significant increases,
much of the additional funding will be absorbed by computer and
technology overhauls. Staffing in field offices and teleservice centers
was little more than 1:1 replacement. Very little of the money has been
used to improve service delivery on the front lines in field offices
and teleservice centers,” added Skwierczynski.
According to a 2009 GAO report, service delivery in SSA field offices
has declined greatly in recent years. In FY 2008, more than 3 million
customers waited for over 1 hour to be served, while currently 58%
percent of customers calling field offices had calls go unanswered.
“This is symptomatic of the failure of the agency to have a
comprehensive service delivery plan. The public finds it difficult to
interact with a Social Security employee when they need assistance,”
Daniel Woosley, an SSA claims representative in the Louisville West
SSA office and executive vice president of AFGE Local 3984 addressed
SSA’s flawed Internet claims program, which in itself is creating yet
another backlog at SSA. “It’s extremely important for members of
Congress to know that the vast majority of retirement claims which are
submitted to Social Security from the internet are plagued with errors.
It has been my experience that at least two or three contacts are
needed to clear the claim and get it processed. There are always
additional questions which must be answered; then I have to wait for
necessary forms to be signed and get additional information. At the
same time, employees are ‘under the gun’ from management to clear as
many of these claims as possible. If that means cutting corners or
giving the claims only a cursory view – or none at all – we know the
agency’s artificial goals have become more important than producing a
quality product for the public.”
“Staffing losses and increased workloads are the greatest factors
contributing to processing delays, backlogs, and loss of service. AFGE
strongly believes that spending for the administration of SSA programs
be set at a level that fits the needs to Social Security’s contributors
and beneficiaries, rather than the arbitrary level that fits within the
current political process,” concluded 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.