The Social Security Administration (SSA) plans to close field offices throughout the United States in an effort to streamline processes and reduce costs. In Indiana, SSA workers protested the proposed closures by marching in front of the field office in New Albany that serves seven counties north of Louisville, Kentucky.
Agency to Close Field Offices
The agency, which provides disability, old-age pension and survivor benefits to almost 20 percent of all Americans, is closing local field offices in anticipation of the growing number of Americans who use the agency's online services to apply for benefits. However, according to some of the Kentucky protesters, the agency is not slated to begin closing offices until 2025, yet has already begun this process by closing nearly 100 field offices.
Online SSA Services May Not Benefit All
The agency is encouraging current and future beneficiaries to establish online accounts. However, the Kentucky protesters are concerned that the elderly and disabled, the majority of Social Security's beneficiaries, are the least likely people to be able to access the agency's services via the Internet.
Others, however, have characterized the New Albany office as having a top-heavy management structure. By the end of this year, one in seven workers in the office will be managers. Yet staff shortages at the claims-adjuster level mean that claims are frequently only half-done before being handed off to the next step in the process. Customers must often wait a half-hour before their names are called because of customer service staff shortages.
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Source: Courier-Journal, "Social Security protest sparked by closures," Nov. 18, 2014.