The Congressional Budget Office reports that even as the need for Social Security offices grow, budget cuts are resulting in closures of offices across the U.S.
The result has been that seniors in need of assistance are faced with frustrating waits for service.
The Associated Press reports:
Social Security has closed 64 field offices since 2010, the largest number of closures in a five-year period in the agency’s history, the bipartisan staff of the Senate Aging Committee said in its report. In addition, the agency has closed 533 temporary mobile offices that often serve remote areas.
Hours have been reduced in the 1,245 field offices that are still open, the report said.
“Seniors are not being served well when you arbitrarily close offices and reduce access to services,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., chairman of the Aging Committee, told AP. “The closure process is neither fair nor transparent and needs to change.”
The closure of Social Security offices comes just as the number of applications for retirement and disability benefits sharply increases:
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.
The Social Security administration says it is faced with “tough” choices and is encouraging people to take advantage of online resources.
But for Senator Susan Collins of Maine (R), that’s not good enough.
“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,” she said.