The SSA has closed 64 field offices and 533 temporary mobile offices since 2010. It has also cut 11,000 workers over the last three years and continues to reduce or eliminate a variety of in-person services.
The Social Security Administration is in the midst of the largest five-year decline in field offices in its 79-year history, according to a congressional report released Wednesday.
The SSA has closed 64 field offices and 533 temporary mobile offices since 2010. It has also cut 11,000 workers over the last three years and continues to reduce or eliminate a variety of in-person services, the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging finds. “This comes at a time when baby boomers are filling record numbers of retirement, disability and survivor claims with the agency,” the committee said in a statement.
Social Security field offices have been closed in 30 states as well as in Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. New York has seen the biggest cuts in service with the closure of 12 offices, followed by six in Pennsylvania, and three each in California, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Texas.
"I think it's a legitimate question: Is this a death by a thousand cuts?" Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, who chairs the panel, said. "An agency known for its great service could be undercutting its mission. Most of this has been done with very little consultation of the Congress... and most of this has been done without consultation with the impacted communities."
Nine out of ten seniors age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits, according to the SSA. These benefits comprise almost 40 percent (38 percent) of the income of the elderly.
The demand for Social Security services is projected to increase. The life expectancy of a 65-year-old is 20 years, up from 14 in 1940, according to the SSA. Between 8,000 and 10,000 baby boomers daily will turn for the next 18 years. By 2033, the number of older Americans will increase to 77 million from 46.6 million today.
“Seniors are not being served well when you arbitrarily close offices and reduce access to services,” said Dem. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, chairman of the Aging Committee.
In 2013, more than 43 million people visited Social Security field offices, the report said. Just over four-in-ten seeking an appointment had a wait time of more than three weeks, up from just 10 percent the previous year. For those who can get through on the phone, 14 percent of callers to the SSA’s toll-free number will get a busy signal, while those who do connect will wait on hold for an average of 17 minutes.
Nine-in-ten Affluent baby boomers surveyed by Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner rate their understanding of Social Security benefits either good (49 percent) or at least fair (41 percent).
Where do they go for information to determine when is the optimum title to start receiving their benefits? Nearly half (48 percent) consult the SSA website, while just over four-in-ten (43 percent) consult the SSA’s printed materials.
Nearly three-in-ten (27 percent) consult with friends and family members, while 28 percent consult with their financial advisor.
Which source of information do they consider to be the most helpful? Almost half (48 percent) said the SSA website, followed by the agency’s printed materials (21 percent).
Related story: Social Security turns 78--The gift that keeps on giving
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.