Now, 17th District Congresswoman Cheri Bustos has signed onto legislation that would prevent those cuts for one year.
Social Security number printouts and, in October, benefit verification statements would not be supplied through the local field offices, but would instead need to be handled online or over the phone.
Congresswoman Bustos tells WGIL there’s plenty more information to be gathered before intelligent decisions can be made.
“I think to actually close offices, or cut services at a time where we have more seniors going into the system is not the way we should do things,” says Bustos. “Under our legislation this one year will allow us to, again, ask some of those questions that we need to ask and make sure that we’re serving the seniors the way they should be served.”
The legislation was introduced by Congressman Bruce Braley out of Iowa’s First district to stall the cuts. He was cited as saying the reduced benefits move the country closer to permanently shuttering the offices.
Millions use the Social Security Administration field offices each year for various purposes. The cuts are anticipated in the face of an aging U.S. population.
While the legislation to stall the cuts is still in the its early stages, Bustos tells WGIL that actual consumers on Social Security were rarely surveyed about the impact.
“Already there’s excessive wait times when seniors have to call the Social Security Administration using telephone as opposed to stopping by in person or using the Internet,” says Bustos. “If we transition these offices, many of the functions, more to where you have to use the Internet, or you have to use the phone, all that’s going to happen is those wait times are going to go up.”
The Social Security Administration has been developing a long-term plan to take many of its benefit services online. Several members of Congress, Bustos included, say that due diligence must be more thoroughly conducted before the changes are implemented.
The 17th Congressional district has seven Social Security field offices with Galesburg included in that list. Bustos tells WGIL that her district has a higher senior population than many other districts around the country.
“By delaying this, we can look into these decisions and make sure the offices that we have are the ones that we need, make sure that we have the case load that would require that they stay open and, again, ask those questions before the Social Security Administration randomly, or arbitrarily closes any of these offices,” says Bustos.
Over the last 15 years or so, the Social Security Administration has seen budget cuts.
Among the challenges that could be imposed by the reductions next month would be additional wait times to receive requested benefits. Bustos says that while government is not always known for being proactive, she hopes the legislation to stall the cuts can certainly address any issues before they happen.