SCHUMER CALLS ON FEDS TO KEEP KINGSTON SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE OPEN FOR BUSINESS; PROPOSED CONSOLIDATION WITH POUGHKEEPSIE OFFICE COULD PUT ESSENTIAL SOCIAL SECURITY SERVICES OUT OF REACH FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS OF ULSTER COUNTY SENIORS
brSchumer Urges Acting Social Security Commissioner To Abandon Proposed Consolidation of Kingston Poughkeepsie Office, Keep Kingstons Office Open To Serve Local Seniors Kingston SSA Office Serves Roughly 95 Seniors a Day in PersonbrbrbrClosure Relocation Could Force Thousands of Ulster County Seniors, And Many Disabled, to Travel Further For Essential Retirement, Social Security, and Disability ServicesbrbrbrKingston is Already in the Process of Helping SSA Cut Costs by Seeking Cheaper Office
Today, at the Ulster County Offices, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to abandon plans to consolidate the Kingston Office into the Poughkeepsie Office, in order to keep essential social security services nearby for Ulster County seniors. Schumer highlighted that thousands of seniors each month and roughly 95 seniors a day, often disabled, rely on the close proximity of the Kingston office in order to secure their hardearned social security benefits, including disability benefits and others that are essential for retirement. Schumer pointed to the fact that the Kingston Office is already looking at costcutting measures - like moving to a new office space at half the cost of their current office - that could allow the Kingston SSA Office to remain open and still cut costs overall for the Social Security Administration. Because the Kingston office is a crucial resource for tens of thousands of Ulster County seniors, and has demonstrated a history of effective case management, Schumer urged the Social Security Administration to cancel their consolidation plans and keep the facility open.
"Closing this social security office will unduly burden tens of thousands of Kingston and Ulster County seniors, forcing the elderly and disabled to travel great distances to access their essential and hardearned social security services," said Schumer. "That is why I'm urging the Social Security Administration to demonstrate its commitment to providing convenient, accessible services to tens of thousands of local seniors by reversing course and keeping the doors open at the Kingston Office, which serves nearly a hundred seniors a day. The Kingston facility has proven it offers efficient service, and is actively looking at measures to reduce costs, like moving to office space that is only half the price of their current location."
Schumer continued, "So I am pushing Acting Commissioner Colvin to take into account three things before she moves forward with this plan to consolidate: the excellent track record of the Kingston facility, the demand they clearly have on a daytoday basis, and their consistent efforts to cut costs to save money for the Social Security Administration. By keeping the Kingston Office open and allowing them to move forward with costcutting measures, we can have our cake and eat it too."
Schumer was joined by Mike Hein, Ulster County Executive, Adrian Cruz, AFGE Union Steward and local senior citizens that rely on the office.
Last year, the Social Security Administration announced that the Social Security office on Grant Avenue would be closing and consolidating its operations to the Poughkeepsie SSA office. This news would mean that the 25,000 beneficiaries a year who obtain their retirement and disability services at the social security office in Kingston would have to travel a much greater distance for these essential services. According to the Kingston SSA office, they receive on average roughly 95 people per day, 15 with prescheduled appointments and about 80 walkins, but handle even more over the phone or online. Since many of these seniors are disabled or otherwise in a compromised condition, the increase in travel to Poughkeepsie or Monticello would be a significant hurdle. What's more, as these seniors are most often living on a fixed income, the extra travel would further eat into their alreadyconstrained budgets.
The proposed relocation comes despite the Kingston office's high volume of seniors they serve. Schumer underscored in his letter to Acting Commissioner Colvin that the Kingston Office is making a sustained effort to cut costs; and that their plans to move to a much cheaper office space should be allowed to go forward before any decision is made on the future of the Kingston Office. Furthermore, Schumer noted that maintaining the Ulster County office would safeguard the jobs of the dedicated public servants who work there.
While there has been a push to do more SSA business online or over the phone, Schumer countered that most seniors prefer to meet facetoface and that social security transactions usually involve sensitive documents, like birth certificates and social security cards, which most are not comfortable putting in the mail. There is also a technologyliteracy required to complete these transactions online or over the phone that some seniors still may not have. Therefore Schumer argued that because of the clear facetoface demand that exists for the services of the Kingston SSA office, the proposed relocation should be reconsidered.
A copy of Senator Schumer's letter to Acting Commissioner Colvin of the Social Security Administration appears below:
Dear Acting Commissioner Colvin;
I write today in response to your agency's decision to consolidate the Kingston, NY field office on Grant Avenue with the Poughkeepsie, NY field office. Closing the Kingston SSA office would cause undue hardship on many local social security claimants. These individuals, many of them elderly or disabled, rely on the close proximity of the Kingston office and the facetoface help it provides. Additionally, many SSA claimants do not have enough money to meet basic needs and the added expense of traveling to a further office is simply not feasible. The Kingston office serves roughly 95 people per working day; 15 with prescheduled appointments and about 80 walkins. Closing this office would force this high volume of claimants to travel over an hour to the Poughkeepsie or Monticello field office for essential services.
To help with cost savings, Ulster County, NY has offered to provide the SSA with a comparable field office space at half the price of the current Kingston field office space. The office space being offered would be located in the Ulster County complex for County Senior and Veteran services. This office is just a 10 minute drive from the current Kingston field office. Ulster County has committed to providing this space to the SSA. Moving the field office to this space would allow for substantial cost savings while maintaining a SSA field office in Kingston.
Over the years, the Kingston office has displayed its ability to get the job done, effectively and efficiently processing claims with a limited staff. Moreover, the Kingston location accommodates residents from other communities that border Kingston but are not as close to Poughkeepsie.
Again, we ask that you reconsider closing the Kingston office and invite you to consider the offer made by Ulster County to relocate within Kingston. We should do everything we can to accommodate the thousands of residents in and around Kingston who have worked hard to earn their social security benefits.
Charles E. Schumer