The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare joined the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and other advocates Thursday to protest the scheduled closing of the Social Security Administration field office in Arlington, VA. The Social Security Administration plans to close the office on June 21, 2018.
Protesters gathered in 90-degree heat in front of the high-rise office building at 1401 Wilson Boulevard with signs reading “Keep SSA open,” and chanting “Social Security is our fight! Social Security is our right!” The rally was covered by print and broadcast news, featuring interviews with National Committee president Max Richtman and members of NCPSSM’s Capital Action Team (CAT) volunteers.
“Closing Social Security field offices like the one here in Arlington causes undue difficulty for elderly and working-class claimants who rely on public transportation to get here. If the office is shuttered as planned in June, these individuals will have to travel nearly two hours round-trip on Metro and Metrobus to the nearest Virginia office in Alexandria. This is unacceptable.” – Max Richtman, NCPSSM president
The scheduled closure of the Arlington office comes on the heels of others in heavily populated urban areas, including in Milwaukee and Chicago during the past year, and the announced closing of an SSA field office in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore (also effective this June). Since 2000, SSA has closed nearly 125 field offices nationwide.
One of the reasons SSA plans to close the office in Arlington is related to the alleged inability of another government agency, the General Services Administration (GSA), to find acceptable real estate in the area.
“We’ve heard this same excuse offered as the reason offices in other cities had to be closed. If GSA, which is the federal government’s real estate agent, can’t find acceptable space for a Social Security office in an area with a 20 percent vacancy rate, then perhaps they should go into a different line of work. Instead of GSA, SSA should be given authority to serve as its own real estate agent.“ – Max Richtman, NCPSSM president
Max Richtman writes about the issue in today’s edition of the Hill newspaper.
According to Witold Skwierczynski of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents Social Security field office workers, SSA is closing offices without following its own stated procedures, which include:
*Giving Congress and the public notice of a potential closing
*Analyzing the effect of such closings on transportation to the nearest office
*Analyzing the impact on SSA employees
So far, SSA has done none of this. In fact, SSA’s Inspector General is currently investigating the agency’s apparent breach of procedure. What’s more, Congress instructed SSA not to close any field offices until the Inspector General’s office completes its inquiry. By continuing to close field offices, Skwierczynski argues that SSA is not following guidelines it received from Congress – as well as its own policies.
Earlier this week, Max Richtman sent a letter to The Senate Committee on Aging demanding oversight of SSA office closures.
Congress slashed SSA’s operating budget by 11% (adjusted for inflation) from 2010-2017. The 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act finally gave SSA a funding increase over 2017 levels. Of the $480 million dollar boost, only some $200 million was allocated for direct public service. The Social Security Administration will need even more funding in FY 2019 in order to keep offices open and improve customer service.
The administration of Social Security should not be a target of budget cuts, because it’s funded from payroll contributions by working Americans. It is only right that Congress fully fund SSA operations. The American people deserve the customer service they have already paid for. That means adequate resources for SSA to do its job, and no more field office closings.