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Progressive Caucus Resolution 2016-02

Resolution in Support of Accessible Community-Based Social Security Administration Service Delivery

WHEREAS record numbers of clients are visiting and calling Social Security Administration (SSA) offices to receive the services and benefits that they have earned over a lifetime of work, and facing record waiting times before finally having the chance to speak to an SSA employee trained to assist in navigating the agency's complex programs; and

WHEREAS SSA has cut hours and is eliminating certain services at field offices in these times of greatest need, while aggressively steering the public to Internet self-disservice both inside and outside of those offices; and

WHEREAS identity thieves have had an easy time filing fraudulent Internet retirement applications that rob the Social Security trust funds, because there is no authentication of applicant identities; and

WHEREAS the monthly payments of an estimated 120,000 beneficiaries have so far been redirected to the bank accounts of thieves because MySSA is neither safe nor secure; and

WHEREAS SSA has closed over 70 field offices and 1500 contact stations in recent years, and placed many of the remaining offices in locations that are costly and difficult for elderly, disabled, and low-income clients to reach; and

WHEREAS SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin now says she will consider additional office closures on a case-by-case-basis, following an 18-month moratorium on closures due to adverse public and Congressional reaction; and

WHEREAS SSA claims to be responding to growing public demand for Internet self-service, but a November 2014 public policy polling survey revealed that only 11% to 13 % of respondents wanted to file for retirement benefits or for replacement Social Security Cards online rather than at a field office, with only 3% to 4% of those under 30 years of age wanting that option; and

WHEREAS over 1 million Americans, many of them veterans, are waiting for decisions on their disability benefit application appeals, many enduring years of delay from the date of filing to receive a final decision; and

WHEREAS austere administrative budgets and inadequate front-line staffing have crippled the SSA's ability to provide the prompt, equitable, accurate services that American workers have paid for and deserve, even though trust fund surpluses have grown to $2.8 trillion, and administration of the Social Security program consumes less than 1% of annual program income;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Washington State Progressive Caucus ask that SSA office hours should first be restored and then expanded; and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that closed offices be reopened, that offices with access problems be moved, and that the overall number of offices be expanded; and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the SSA should not require or encourage transmission of personal information over the fraud-plagued Internet retirement application and MySSA systems until they can be made safe and secure; and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that since most SSA administrative costs are reimbursed from trust funds that are in surplus, and because some of the surplus is desperately needed now to fund front-line staffing increases for much-needed service improvements, the SSA's administrative accounts be taken off-budget in order to shield the accounts from sequestration cuts and other fiscal attacks; and

THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Washington State Progressive Caucus send copies of this resolution to our Congressional delegation and to the Seattle and national SSA offices.

Submitted to the Washington State Progressive Caucus meeting of January 30, 2016 by Martha Koester, Secretary

Disposition:

Brian Gunn, Chair