From WREG Memphis: “Government Employees Protest Shut Down of SSA Office”

November 19, 2012
by Elise Preston

(Memphis) About a dozen government union workers holding signs pleading with the federal government to keep the east Memphis Social Security office open, lined Players Club Parkway Monday. The parking lot is full, but the doors are expected to close December 28th.

“The agency stated they could save 300,000 dollars a year. With all the budget cuts, they needed to shut the office down,” said American Federation of Government Employees local president, Peter Harris. According to Harris, the office serves 75,000 people and shutting it down would cause a lot of hardship for those folks. “That’s going to create a lot of wait times, a lot of poor service for taxpayers. People who have paid into social security all their life, are going to have to go elsewhere,” said Harris.

Seventy-three year-old Maryam Rostebet is on Medicare and uses the office. Her son Saeed Nia has to come with her, “They normally do not talk on the phone, unless they can talk to the person. Not knowing the language, she has a hard time. That`s why we come here, because I can translate.” Nia calls the looming close a disaster, “ I would have to take off from my work, so commuting is difficult if its farther.”

We called the Social Security Office to speak with someone about the shut down,  but haven’t received a call back.

Harris believes the administration foolishly used funds on things that didn’t impact people and now those in need, will suffer, “It’s a lot of angst and uncertainty, the matter in which this was held. There was no public meeting, this was just a quick 2 month decision.”

Three offices will remain open in Memphis. Once is located in Midtown at 1330 Monroe. Another location is in Walnut Grove at 225 N. Humphreys. The address to the Raleigh location is 3602 Austin Peay.

Click here to read the original story and view the video.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

AFGE Joins Social Security Advocacy Groups in Requesting Adequate Funding for SSA in FY 2014

The American Federation of Government Employees joined other Social Security advocacy groups and organizations in requesting adequate funding be dedicated to SSA operations in the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget. In a letter to Office of Management and Budget(OMB) Acting Director Jeffrey Zients, coalition groups  have expressed the need for SSA to be properly funded in order to administer complex programs, meet the agency’s ever-increasing workloads,  and increase staffing and resources.

To read the letter in its entirety please click the graphic below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Security Union Expresses Concerns Over SSA Office Hour Reductions

The AFGE Social Security Council  expressed concerns today about plans by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reduce the number of  hours at field offices open to the public. According to the agency’s announcement, as of November 19, 2012, offices that now close at 3:30 pm will close at 3:00.  Offices will close at noon on Wednesdays beginning on January 2, 2013.

“This decision is a deliberate attempt by Commissioner Astrue to deny Social Security beneficiaries and the public access to critical information they need to successfully navigate the System” said Council President Witold Skwierczynski. “46 Social Security Offices have been closed over the past 21 months, field office staff have been cut, and over 300 contact station around the country have closed. The pattern is clear, SSA is saying to the public, ‘we are getting out of the service business, you’re on your own’.

Under Commissioner Astrue, the Agency has pursued an aggressive agenda of moving all applications, benefit inquiries and other questions onto the internet. “The problem is that they are moving so quickly, they are leaving thousands of people behind. These are people who were denied benefits or received lower benefits that they were eligible for because they did not have access to a SSA claims representative who could guide them through the claims process. The internet is an important tool for SSA but it should not be used as a vehicle to deny Americans the benefits to which they are entitled” said Skwierczynski.  Many claimants are unable to navigate complex retirement and disability applications on the Internet and require face to face service to properly complete their applications.  Reduced service hours will force the public to fend for themselves on the Internet.  Union surveys of employees who review Internet claims indicate that those who file on the Internet often make errors that can cost permanent loss of thousands of dollars of benefits.

The Union has urged the Agency to seek alternatives to cuts in the field office structure including eliminating a bloated management structure that includes unnecessary layers of management and 42 all management offices that cost millions in rent and perform no direct service for the American public.  Reducing office hours while keeping unnecessary offices for high graded managers who do not take or review claims is a sign of misplaced government priorities said Skwierczynski.

“Finally, we have heard recently that SSA plans to spend $55 million to build a fence around the headquarters building.   Apparently even when the nation is overwhelmed with debt, SSA can find money when it wants to”  Skwiercznski concluded.

###

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Social Security Union Expresses Concerns Over SSA Office Hour Reductions

The AFGE Social Security Council  expressed concerns today about plans by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reduce the number of  hours at field offices open to the public. According to the agency’s announcement, as of November 19, 2012, offices that now close at 3:30 pm will close at 3:00.  Offices will close at noon on Wednesdays beginning on January 2, 2013.

“This decision is a deliberate attempt by Commissioner Astrue to deny Social Security beneficiaries and the public access to critical information they need to successfully navigate the System” said Council President Witold Skwierczynski. “46 Social Security Offices have been closed over the past 21 months, field office staff have been cut, and over 300 contact station around the country have closed. The pattern is clear, SSA is saying to the public, ‘we are getting out of the service business, you’re on your own’.

Under Commissioner Astrue, the Agency has pursued an aggressive agenda of moving all applications, benefit inquiries and other questions onto the internet. “The problem is that they are moving so quickly, they are leaving thousands of people behind. These are people who were denied benefits or received lower benefits that they were eligible for because they did not have access to a SSA claims representative who could guide them through the claims process. The internet is an important tool for SSA but it should not be used as a vehicle to deny Americans the benefits to which they are entitled” said Skwierczynski.  Many claimants are unable to navigate complex retirement and disability applications on the Internet and require face to face service to properly complete their applications.  Reduced service hours will force the public to fend for themselves on the Internet.  Union surveys of employees who review Internet claims indicate that those who file on the Internet often make errors that can cost permanent loss of thousands of dollars of benefits.

The Union has urged the Agency to seek alternatives to cuts in the field office structure including eliminating a bloated management structure that includes unnecessary layers of management and 42 all management offices that cost millions in rent and perform no direct service for the American public.  Reducing office hours while keeping unnecessary offices for high graded managers who do not take or review claims is a sign of misplaced government priorities said Skwierczynski.

“Finally, we have heard recently that SSA plans to spend $55 million to build a fence around the headquarters building.   Apparently even when the nation is overwhelmed with debt, SSA can find money when it wants to”  Skwiercznski concluded.

###

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

AFGE and the National Social Security Council Say Social Security Administration Office Closures Could Limit Access for Thousands

AFGE and the National Social Security Council Say Social Security Administration Office Closures Could Limit Access for Thousands

Offices in Mississippi; Alaska; Kentucky; Washington, DC; Georgia; and Iowa slated to close September 30.

(Washington) – Representatives from the National Social Security Council say that planned closures at Social Security Administration (SSA) could limit access to social security offices for thousands of Americans.

Offices in Biloxi, Mississippi; Ketchikan, Alaska; Louisville, KY; Shepherd Park, DC; Moultrie, GA; and Clinton, IA, are slated to close September 30, 2012, leaving thousands of Americans without access to benefits information, SSA resources, and service representatives. Two offices in Seattle have already been consolidated, which resulted in service downgrades to seniors and the disabled in that area.

“These closings will really devastate the communities,” said National Social Security Council President Witold Skwiercynzski. “SSA should be in the business of making sure that offices are available to help people that have been paying into Social Security for years.”

The SSA says the office closings are due to budget cuts at the agency. Recent efforts to lower costs have led to moving many forms and resources online. However, the Council claims that these forms are confusing and not accessible to citizens without Internet access, making it difficult for people to access the services they need.

SSA claims that citizens who need to physically go to SSA offices can go to the nearest office, but residents using the Ketchikan, Alaska, office will have to travel 300 miles to visit the next closest SSA office in Juneau. Likewise, social security recipients who are disabled or who take the bus to and from local SSA offices may not be able to access other facilities.

“We don’t need less offices, we need a lot more,” said Skwiercynzski. “Millions of baby boomers are reaching retirement and thousands of veterans are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. These people need and deserve easy access to social security offices and to their earned benefits and resources.”

“SSA occupies over 40 Area Director offices that are full of high graded management officials who provide no direct service to the public. SSA could close these offices and consolidate them with existing space in the regional office and save millions. Instead the agency seems more interested in damaging communities by closing full service SSA offices and forcing the public to fend for themselves on the Internet or to travel inordinate distances to complete their Social Security business,” said Skwiercynzski.

# # #

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Press Release | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Largest Federal Employee Union, Social Security Administration Reach Agreement

Conceptual Contract Agreement Achieved after 27 Months of Negotiations

After 27 months of negotiations, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the Social Security Administration have reached a conceptual agreement for the terms of the new national contract. “It’s been a long road but we fought hard and proudly won improvements in benefits and working conditions for the employees of the Social Security Administration,” stated AFGE National President John Gage, who worked as a disability examiner for the Social Security Administration and was a seminal player in reaching the deal.

Negotiations between AFGE and SSA have been ongoing, two weeks every month, since December 2009. AFGE referred the bargaining to the Federal Service Impasses Panel in September 2011, in reaction to the lack of progress in national contract negotiations.  The language for the new contract is conceptual and will be finalized by both AFGE and SSA management, then sent out for ratification by AFGE locals.  Once the contract is ratified by AFGE and SSA, it will be valid for four years.

 “We made improvements in eye care and travel benefits, strengthened employee rights in the workplace and allowed for the union to have broader ability to represent employees in meetings with SSA management,” explained AFGE Lead Negotiator Witold Skwierczynski.  “I want to thank our negotiators, and the SSA negotiators, for the hard work, dedication and countless hours away from family it took to get to this point.”

 Some of the more key articles of the contract, such as merit promotions, work at home and appraisals are still in the process of being hammered out and must be incorporated into the contract no later than June 2012, according the terms of the conceptual agreement. “We look forward to getting this contract ratified and improving the working conditions of our members throughout the Social Security Administration,” concluded Skwierczynski.

 ###

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

Posted in Press Release | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

SSA PERFORMANCE RATING RULING COULD IMPACT ALL SSA WORKERS

Social Security Administration employees who have received lower performance ratings from their managers without any advance notice that their performance was declining may be able to get their ratings reversed. Arbitrator Linda Johnson has found that SSA violated its national collective bargaining agreement with AFGE by lowering an employee’s annual performance rating in a particular job element without first notifying the employee that her performance expectations were being changed or providing the employee with any advance notice that she was in danger of receiving a lower rating. The arbitrator also noted that the Personnel Policy Manual Standards used by management to determine employee performance levels are too vague to allow for objective performance reviews. The employee was represented by Louetta Keene, Vice President for AFGE Local 1164 in Lowell, Mass.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment