clear
Saturday February 13th, 2016 5:53AM

Social Security closes offices even as baby boomers age

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Even as millions of baby boomers approach retirement, the Social Security Administration has been closing dozens of field offices, forcing more and more seniors to seek help online instead of in person, according to a congressional report being released Wednesday.<br /> <br /> The agency blames budget constraints.<br /> <br /> As a result, seniors seeking information and help from the agency are facing increasingly long waits, in person and on the phone, the report said.<br /> <br /> Social Security has closed 64 field offices since 2010, the largest number of closures in a five-year period in the agency's history, according to a report by the bipartisan staff of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. In addition, the agency has closed 533 temporary mobile offices that often serve remote areas.<br /> <br /> Hours have been reduced in the 1,245 field offices that are still open, the report said.<br /> <br /> The report questions the agency's criteria for choosing which offices to close, saying the impact on local communities is rarely taken into account.<br /> <br /> "Seniors are not being served well when you arbitrarily close offices and reduce access to services," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., chairman of the Aging Committee. "The closure process is neither fair nor transparent and needs to change."<br /> <br /> The committee is holding a hearing on the report Wednesday afternoon. A Social Security official is scheduled to testify. On Tuesday, the agency released a short statement on the report.<br /> <br /> "We appreciate the Senate Aging Committee's report on service delivery issues and the tough choices we have had to make because of budget constraints," the statement said. "We just received the report this morning and have begun reviewing its findings and recommendations. We will respond to the committee when that analysis is complete."<br /> <br /> The closings come as applications for retirement and disability benefits are soaring, a trend that will continue as aging baby boomers approach retirement.<br /> <br /> More than 47 million people receive Social Security retirement benefits, nearly a 20 percent increase from a decade ago. About 11 million people receive Social Security disability benefits, a 38 percent increase from a decade ago.<br /> <br /> The Social Security Administration has been encouraging people to access services online. The agency has upgraded its website in recent years, including secure connections to access confidential information and apply for benefits.<br /> <br /> In 2013, nearly half of all retirement applications were filed online, the report said.<br /> <br /> But the committee report notes that many older Americans lack access to the Internet or might not be comfortable using it to apply for benefits.<br /> <br /> Last year, more than 43 million people visited Social Security field offices, the report said. About 43 percent of those seeking an appointment had to wait more than three weeks, up from just 10 percent the year before, the report said.<br /> <br /> Wait times on the phone have increased, too - for those who get through. This year, the agency projects that 14 percent of callers to a toll-free help line will get a busy signal. Those who get through wait on hold for an average of 17 minutes, the report said.<br /> <br /> People can get information about Social Security, Medicare and Supplemental Security Income at the field offices. They can apply for benefits and get information to help them decide when to apply. They can address more complicated issues such as fraud.<br /> <br /> Visitors can also get documents verifying their benefits or Social Security numbers, though these services are scheduled to be eliminated at field offices later this year. People sometimes need the information quickly to apply for jobs or to verify income when applying for other government benefits, the report said.<br /> <br /> "There are many, many instances where the case may be too complicated to be resolved simply by going online," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Aging Committee. "Far too many seniors throughout our nation, particularly those living in rural areas, might not have access to a computer or the Internet. It is critical that SSA take into account these issues and the effect on the community before eliminating services."
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 1 year ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 1 year ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
U.S, Cuba to resume commercial flights for 1st time in 50 years
The United States and Cuba will sign an agreement next week to resume commercial air traffic for the first time in five decades, starting the clock on dozens of new flights operating daily by next fall, U.S. officials said Friday.
By The Associated Press
9:35PM ( 8 hours ago )
New details about the possible effects of the Zika virus on the fetal brain are emerging
WASHINGTON (AP) — New details about the possible effects of the Zika virus on the fetal brain emerged Wednesday as U.S. health officials say mosquito eradication here and abroad is key to protect preg...
6:22PM ( 2 days ago )
President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus and the mosquitoes that spread it here and abroad, but says "there s...
10:40PM ( 4 days ago )
Search for Missouri couple wanted for crimes across the South, including Ga., ends with one suspect dead and the other wounded
A weeklong search for a Missouri couple wanted in a series of robberies and abductions across the South ended with one suspect dead and the other wounded Friday, after authorities say they chased the pair across the highway and through a rural neighborhood and exchanged gunfire with them in Florida's Panhandle.
By The Associated Press
9:57PM ( 1 week ago )
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while, buoying consumers, frustrating oil producers
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while.That reality is wreaking havoc and causing uncertainty for some governments and businesses, while creating financial windfalls for others. Less expensive...
6:18PM ( 1 week ago )