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North Philly Office Closing Shows Effects of Social Security Cuts

Here's the good news: The Sequester does not affect Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. But there's also bad news: the Sequester does affect the offices and staff that administer those benefits.

Although the Social Security Administration has not announced specific reductions in permanent employee hours, it has said that it will not fill around 5,000 vacant employee positions. This way of dealing with the reduced budget caused by the Sequester means that claims will take longer to process, recipients will wait longer for appointments, and it will take much longer for the phone to be answered.

In addition, the agency will eliminate most overtime, and fire more than one thousand temporary employees. The result: A bigger backlog of claims, estimated to be at more than one million by the end of 2013.

Social Security's budget was already cut, resulting in reduced office hours and increased waiting times for everything from decisions on claims and appeals to telephone calls. Offices were closed and hours slashed. A story from North Philadelphia illustrates the consequences of office closures on real people, even when not the result of the Sequester.

The North Philadelphia Social Security field office closed on April 19. Visitors to the now-closed office on Cecil B. Moore Avenue were told by a sign on the gate to visit the Social Security office in Center City. For many recipients of the services and benefits provided by the closed office, that's easier said than done.

Most recipients of SSD and other benefits provided by the Social Security Administration can't afford to park downtown if they drive. The North Philadelphia location was known as a place where things were handled efficiently, where you can just "get in and get out," in the words of one user. The Center City office is crowded, with long lines and waiting times.

People who were unaware that the North Philadelphia office had closed are now out bus fare for their wasted trip. When you're on SSD, that's a significant and unnecessary expense. Apparently most users of that office were not told about the closure.

If you are having trouble with your application for disability benefits, whether because of office closures, the Sequester or for any other reason, do what so many others have done. Call Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. They will know how to help you get the benefits you need and deserve.

Source: philly.com, "Closure of North Philly Social Security office irks disabled residents," by Valerie Russ, May 10, 2013.

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