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AARP: Schumer Bill Puts Brakes on Social Security Office Closures

Assoc. commends Senator for seeking public input prior to any closure, live chat function on ssa.gov, reduced fees for low-income beneficiaries

NEW YORK, Aug. 13, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AARP New York today praised U.S. Senator Charles Schumer for introducing legislation that would stop the closure of local Social Security offices without public input and preserve other critical customer protections for Social Security beneficiaries.

With tomorrow marking the 79th anniversary of Social Security, the association representing the 50+ commended the senior senator from New York for introducing the Social Security Access Act of 2014 (S.2742).

The legislation would require public notice and input prior to the closure, consolidation or limitation of public access to Social Security Administration field or hearing offices, establish a live chat function on ssa.gov and provide waivers or reduced fees for low-income beneficiaries seeking fee-based services.

After decades of quality customer support, the SSA in recent years closed local offices, reduced hours of service, eliminated the annual earnings statement and increased fees for services - mainly because funding hasn't kept up with an increasing number of beneficiaries.

Senator Schumer's bill would address many of those problems by requiring the SSA to:

  • Detail for Congress its long-term strategic vision for local services, including recommendations for reforming its current field office closure process;
  • Publish on ssa.gov the most recent annual reviews of offices slated for closure;
  • Provide live chat assistance on its web sites for the many elderly and disabled beneficiaries who need help setting up a MySSA account or navigating SSA's online services.
  • Delay phasing out Social Security number printouts and Benefit Verification Forms for one year.
  • Provide a waiver process and reduced fee schedule for low-income individuals.
  • Provide an automated notification system to alert beneficiaries of changes made to their direct deposit information in a timely manner with both an electronic and mailer notification.

The bill would also impose civil and criminal penalties for knowingly and willingly selling, purchasing, or publicly displaying an individual's Social Security number without informed consent.

"Social Security is a critical source of retirement income for most Americans, and the only source for many, but it can be a difficult system to navigate," said Beth Finkel, State Director of AARP in New York State. "AARP applauds Senator Schumer for recognizing that retirees often need a human hand to help them access the benefits they worked their whole lives to earn – and for understanding the importance of protecting the system that allows older and disabled Americans to live with dignity and support their families."

Nearly three of every five New Yorkers 65 and older receive at least half their income from Social Security, and three in 10 depend on it for all their income.

Almost 3.4 million New Yorkers receive Social Security benefits – one of every six state residents as of 2012. Their average annual benefit was $15,580, which helped keep 820,000 New Yorkers – or 43 percent of the state's 65+ population, out of poverty.

Social Security is the primary source of retirement income for over 41 million Americans and their dependents, and it provides disability and survivor income protections to an additional 17 million Americans.

Follow us on Twitter:  @AARPNY and Facebook: AARP New York

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.

SOURCE AARP New York

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