WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) continued her efforts to protect seniors by leading a bipartisan effort of 66 Members of Congress in calling on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to protect local field offices across the country from closure in the coming years. Illinois’ 17th Congressional District is home to seven Social Security field offices, located in Peoria, Galesburg, Pekin, Rockford, Freeport, Rock Island, and Sterling.
“Many seniors across the country rely on in-person service at their local Social Security field office for help getting the benefits they have earned after a lifetime of hard work,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “Many don’t have access to the internet or family or friends that can help. That is why we need to protect the services offered at our local offices and make Social Security benefits easier to access for seniors, not more difficult.”
Last summer, Bustos successfully fought to ensure that the Social Security Administration would continue to provide benefit verification letters at field offices.
Bustos’ letter from today is below and HERE.
Dear Acting Commissioner Colvin:
On behalf of the undersigned Members of Congress, we have a concern regarding the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) recently released Vision 2025. Our understanding is that Vision 2025 represents SSAs’ view of what the agency should look like in 10 years. If this is correct, we find it hard to understand why it includes no mention of the role of the 1250 field offices located around the United States. Currently these offices serve 43 million visitors each year and handle almost 60 million telephone inquiries, and we are concerned by the fact that your vision includes virtually no mention of them.
We are glad to see SSA explore further uses of the Internet to assist individuals and reduce office wait times, but we do not believe the Internet is a substitute for the face-to-face service and expertise provided by trained field office personnel. Computers cannot always provide people with the options they need to understand and consider before deciding when, and for what benefit, they should be applying.
Our constituents understand this and polling on the subject indicates an overwhelming majority support SSA field offices and would like to see more established around the country. According to a survey conducted by Public Polling Associates in November, 2014, 86 percent of Americans want as many or more field offices in the future. Only 11 percent want to use the Internet or mail to request a replacement Social Security Card. When it comes to filing for benefits, just 13 percent of respondents said they wanted to file for retirement online. Even among people under 30, who are among the most computer literate, that number was only 4 percent.
We respectfully request your response to the following questions in writing as soon as possible.
- What role do you see SSA field offices playing in 10 years that is different from the role they play today?
- Would you say that the number of these offices should remain about the same, be reduced or be increased over that time period?
- What is the basis for your view that the public desires to use the Internet versus seeing someone at a local office?
We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your response to these important questions.