04.18.18

SCHUMER REVEALS: WITH A SURGE OF UPSTATE NEW YORKERS NOW ELIGIBLE FOR SOCIAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE, PHONE WAIT TIMES THROUGHOUT NEW YORK ARE INCREASING; AVERAGE DISABILITY APPEALS CLAIM TAKE OVER 680 DAYS TO PROCESS IN UPSTATE NEW YORK; SENATOR SAYS NYS FIELD OFFICES URGENTLY NEEDS NEWLY AVAILABLE FED FUNDING TO CUT WAIT TIMES

Senator Says Upstate New Yorkers Are Starting to Experience Longer & Longer Wait times For Service At Local Field Office; In Past 6 Months NY Field Offices took over 500,000 Calls With Phone Answer Rate of Only 75% 

Schumer:  Upstate New York 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: Upstate New York Seniors Are Tired Of Listening To Hold Music

On a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer revealed that without immediate intervention, Social Security field offices in Upstate New York could be plagued with even longer wait times. Schumer will call on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to immediately deliver new funding – which Schumer negotiated and President Trump signed into law- to underfunded and understaffed Social Security Administration field offices. According to Schumer, with the retirement of the baby boomers - 10,000 reaching the retirement age every day - the Social Security Administration’s workload has increased tremendously and therefore wait times have reached unprecedented levels. 

“Upstate New York’s 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, with 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. It’s not the staff’s fault but speaks to a lack of resources and investment in the SSA which is hurting seniors and those living with disabilities. 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 Upstate New York’s retirees require and 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 New York’s seniors and disabled comfortable, they absolutely deserve adequate funding now and in the future.   

Schumer said Social Security field staff 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 the 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, and gave some specific data below: 

It takes an average of 683 days to process a disability appeal in Upstate New York:

  • In Albany, it takes an average of 612 days to process a disability appeal
  • In Syracuse, it takes an average of 627 days to process a disability appeal
  • In Rochester, it takes an average of 712 days to process a disability appeal
  • In Buffalo, it takes an average of 751 days to process a disability appeal
  • In White Plains, it takes an average of 716 days to process a disability appeal

Schumer said wait times across Upstate New York have left millions of Upstate New York’s seniors with without critical advice and assistance, and now there is vital funding to fix it.  

Schumer also said that multi-year cuts hurt Upstate New York’s disabled population. Nationwide, the current wait time for a disability appeals claim is over 600 days with the disability backlog topping over 1 million people last year. In Upstate New York, it takes an average of 683 days to process a disability appeal. Schumer said that the need for more funding to reduce backlogs and waiting times is most evidently displayed by the fact that is estimated that thousands of people died last year while waiting for a disability determination. 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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