04.16.18

SCHUMER REVEALS: WITH A SURGE OF NEW YORKERS NOW ELIGIBLE FOR SOCIAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE, PHONE WAIT TIMES AT CAPITAL REGION SOCIAL SECURITY FIELD OFFICES HAVE REACHED CRITICAL MASS; AVERAGE DISABILITY APPEALS CLAIMS TAKING OVER 612 DAYS TO PROCESS; SENATOR SAYS ALBANY FIELD OFFICE HAS ONE OF THE POOREST RECORDS IN STATE & URGENTLY NEEDS NEWLY AVAILABLE FED FUNDING TO HELP CUT WAIT TIMES

Senator Says Capital Region Residents On Average Are Stuck Waiting 40 Minutes For Service at Albany Field Office And Individuals Appealing Disability Claims Are Forced To Wait 570 Days To Get A Hearing 

Schumer: Capital Region SSA Field Offices Can’t Keep Up With Request Due To Lack of Resources And Rate of New Retirees; New Dollars Secured in Recent Legislation Will Help Cut Down On Wait Times 

Schumer: Capital Region Seniors Are Tired Of listening to Hold Music

Standing at the Glenville Senior Center, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed that without immediate intervention, Social Security field offices in the Capital Region, including the Albany and Schenectady field office, could be plagued with even longer wait times if the federal government doesn’t act quickly. According to Schumer, with the retirement of the baby boomers  -10,000 reaching the retirement age every day - the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) workload has increased tremendously and therefore wait times have reached unprecedented levels. At the Albany field office wait times averaged 40 minutes and phone answer rates were 72 percent in 2018. For this reason, Schumer called on the federal government to immediately deliver new funding – which Schumer negotiated and President Trump signed into law -  to underfunded and understaffed Social Security Administration field offices. 

“Capital Region seniors and those waiting for a disability hearing are sick and tired of listening to hold music instead of speaking with a real live human social security specialist,” said Senator Schumer. “With baby boomers retiring and becoming eligible for Social Security benefits -10,000 reaching the retirement age every day - it’s becoming more and more clear that field offices across upstate New York are unable to keep up with demand – and the Albany field office, which has one of the poorest records in the state is clearly no exception.  That is why I fought so hard to secure $480 million in new federal funding to alleviate the egregious wait times and staffing issues at Social Security field offices. Now the feds must act quickly and deliver a good chunk of this money to New York, so that field offices can remain open, address applicant backlogs, and help our most vulnerable.” 

Schumer successfully negotiated a $480 million increase in SSA funding, which was included in the recently passed Omnibus bill. The Omnibus spending bill provides $12.9 billion for SSA’s administrative budget, which represents a $480 million increase over last year. It includes an increase for general operations, as well as designated amounts of $280 million for IT modernization and $100 million for reducing the disability hearings backlog. 

The Omnibus also helps retain and improve the SSA’s field office infrastructure, providing a temporary moratorium on field office closures that have disproportionately impacted New York. Schumer said many Capital Region retirees deserve timely in-person advice at SSA’s field offices on how to get the most out of their earned Medicare and Social Security benefits and the omnibus provides the resources for just that. Schumer concluded that with all the important work that the Social Security Administration does to keep the Capital Region’s seniors and disabled comfortable, they absolutely deserve adequate funding now and in the future.   

Schumer said Social Security field staff, like the ones at the Albany and Schenectady field offices, help seniors and those living with disabilities apply for benefits, replace lost Social Security numbers or Medicare cards, apply for retirement benefits, report changes in their address, and seek advice on how to get the most out of their earned Social Security and Medicare benefits. In 2016, SSA field office employees helped 43 million visitors nationwide and that number will continue to grow with the retirement of the baby boomers. 

Schumer added that despite their importance in recent years, the SSA has had their operational capacity tightly restricted. In fact, since 2010, Congress has cut SSA’s operating budget by 11 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, leading to loss of more than 10,00 employees including 3,500 field office staff, the closing of 65 field offices, including 12 in New York, and reduced hours in field offices across the country. Schumer said the effects of these cuts could be felt in New York and beyond, wait times at Albany Social Security field offices skyrocketed and were an average 40 minutes in 2018, with phones answer rates of 72 percent, which left Capital Region seniors without vital advice, and assistance.

Schumer was joined by Chris Koetzle, Supervisor of the Town of Glenville; David McNally, Director of Government Affairs & Advocacy for AARP; Timothy Clune, Executive Director of Disability Rights New York; and local senior citizens. 

Schumer also said the multi-year cuts also hurt the Capital Region’s disabled population. Nationwide the current wait time for a disability claim appeal is over 600 days with the disability backlog topping over 1 million people. In Albany, it takes an average of 19 months (about 570 days) just to get a disability hearing at the Albany office. Schumer said that the need for more funding to reduce backlogs and waiting times is most evident by the fact that over 10,000 people died last year while waiting for a disability determination last year. Schumer said now with the budget passed, SSA will finally have the investment it needs to benefit seniors and the disabled living in the Capital Region and beyond.

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