A Dangerous Efficiency: Social Security “Reform”
Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 24, 2014
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already familiar with how various persons, in the name of “reform”, seek to destroy the Social Security system.
What you might not know is that one of the areas most heavily under attack is the Social Security disability benefits system. Hearing offices across the nation are slated to be closed and everything will be shunted to a few centralized locations, all in the name of efficiency.
From a recent AFGE letter to the union members among SSA’s hearing office employees:
At a labor-management meeting in Baltimore last month, the draft Future Vision Plan for SSA was revealed and presented to AFGE for comment. On April 16, 2014, you received a message regarding the Agency’s new path for serving the American public in the next 10-15 years. You were each invited to share your ideas through a Vision 2025 forum. This strategic vision plan addresses 5 organizational imperatives of how the Agency will (1) increase electronic service delivery, (2) realign the workforce, (3) develop a workforce with variable, mixed skills, (4) reduce the overall service delivery structure of the Agency, and (5) increase the mobility and agility for the Agency’s workforce. WOW – what does this mean to the employees in ODAR?
As many of you know, for the past several years ODAR has initiated many organizational structural changes in the way we do business, including electronic service delivery. The long range vision for ODAR is really a short range change which will affect you within the next 5 years. Specifically, ODAR leadership this year decided to establish a National Case Assistance Center in Woodlawn, MD, and hire approximately 300 employees, consisting of 90 attorney advisors, 90 law clerks, 60-80 legal assistants, 4 administrative assistants, 4 computer assistants and approximately 30 managers. In addition, there is a planned management action to establish a second National Case Assistance Center in Phoenix, AZ, consisting of 40 employees. The past 5 year history has shown that ODAR’s plan is to have national hearing centers and regional writing and case pulling centers rather than staffing hearing offices or creating new hearing offices. It is clear to AFGE that ODAR leadership plans to eliminate essentially all hearing office positions through a combination of automation, contracting out and utilization of these national and regional centers. In fact, ODAR leadership stated at a meeting of all the unions that if all ALJs would be agreeable to telework 2 days a week, they could hold their hearings in field offices the other 3 days, thereby essentially eliminating the need for hearing offices. If your hearing office is closed, what will happen to you? Will you be forced to make a decision to relocate to a national or regional center, possibly paying your own relocation expenses, in order to continue your employment with ODAR?
Persons wishing to file claims with SSA will no longer be able to walk into their local SSA office to do so, because there won’t be any more local SSA offices. Instead, they’ll have to engage the services of a lawyer and do it over the internet — which is rather ironic.
The recent Target data breaches to show what happens when third parties, like attorneys, get involved in the transmission of sensitive data; it turns out the Target hack was done via a hack of one of Target’s vendors. The Heartbleed crisis shows that even the things we thought would keep us safe, like OpenSSL, are often the means through which the bad guys can steal our data and our lives. In fact, SSA’s own ODAR website tells claimants not to transmit SSNs or claims information over the internet because it’s not secure!
And so now, in order to save a few bucks, SSA wants to dump decades of sensible protections and convenience for claimants.
This will not end well.