National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare president Max Richtman protested the closure of the SSA’s (Social Security Administration) Rotunda field office at a rally in Baltimore today, along with other advocates and claimants who live in the city. The office, located at 711 West 40th Avenue, is scheduled to close permanently on June 21st. The Rotunda field office currently serves some 13,000 seniors, people with disabilities, and other beneficiaries every year.
If the office is shuttered, lower income Social Security and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) claimants may find themselves traveling up to one hour round-trip on public transportation to an alternate field office. Once they arrive at the nearest alternative location, they will experience an average two-hour wait (based on national data) in a crowded office where it can be difficult to locate a seat – an extra hardship for seniors and people with disabilities.
“Closing Social Security field offices like the one at the Rotunda causes undue difficulty for elderly and working class claimants who rely on public transportation,” says National Committee president and CEO Max Richtman. “This is a consequence of Congressional underfunding of the Social Security Administration from 2010-2017. Congress finally increased SSA’s operating budget this year and should do so again for 2019.”
Despite the recent funding boost, SSA continues to close field offices. The closure of the Rotunda office comes on the heels of others in heavily populated urban areas, including Milwaukee and Chicago during the past year, and the announced closing of an SSA field office in Arlington, VA (also effective on June 21). Since 2000, SSA has closed nearly 125 field offices nationwide (65 of them since 2010).
SSA says its closing of the Rotunda office is related to the purported inability of another government agency, the General Services Administration (GSA), to find an acceptable alternative location nearby – even though the current office is relatively small and only has a handful of staffers.
“They say there isn’t enough suitable space for an alternate Social Security office. Does that make any sense in a city where there’s a 13% vacancy rate? Of course not. We’ve heard this same excuse offered as the reason offices in other cities had to be closed, and we don’t buy it,” said Richtman.
The National Committee is working with the Senate Special Committee on Aging and the Baltimore area Congressional delegation to stop local office closures like this one. In a letter to the senior members of the Special Committee on Aging, Richtman writes, “The Social Security Administration [is] weakening its ability to serve the American people by systematically closing and consolidating its field offices.”
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