Criticisms from Field Office Staff

This one is worth reading through – a statement by the head of the Union representing staff in Social Security Field offices about the new options for filing and appealing online:

“Commissioner Astrue has testified that iClaims are more accurate than claims taken by SSA employees. What he is not telling Congress is that ALL iClaims are reviewed and corrected by SSA employees before payment can be authorized. In addition, the most common error, incorrect month of election, is not considered an error under Commissioner Astrue’s financial literacy concept. Under this philosophy the client is responsible for determining the best time to begin their benefits and the SSA employee shouldn’t interfere in that decision even if the claimant’s choice appears clearly disadvantageous. This philosophy as led to many claimants making uninformed decisions which will result in thousands of dollars in lost benefits. However, since claimants can’t make errors regarding the month they elect benefits, SSA’s Internet statistics look good.

“SSA does not and will not perform audits on the Internet claims at the point they are submitted by the applicant. Instead, the claim is reviewed after an SSA employee makes the necessary corrections. This creates the illusion that the public completed the claims correctly. …

“The Commissioner announced last year that SSA’s iClaims process would allow claimants to file Internet claims without SSA employee review starting this year. SSA employees and AFGE were shocked and appalled that such changes would proceed, due to the vast number of claims that require correction before decisions about entitlement or payment amount are effectuated. The Commissioner has delayed implementation of a non‐reviewed iclaims filing process. This delay should be permanent. …

“While resources are limited and field/TSC [Teleservice Centers] staffing levels have not increased in relation to additional workloads, SSA management continues to engage in unethical behavior in processing work and measuring the amount of work completed. SSA management engages in a variety of questionable practices which are designed to enhance individual office statistical performance. Such practices include processing claims for individuals who are clearly ineligible for benefits, and padding statistics by taking unnecessary actions such as reissuing Medicare cards to every client in the office whether or not they request such cards. Systems tricks are employed by some managers to reflect inaccurate processing times in order to claim better statistical performance.”

Witold Skwierczynski, President, National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) , AFL-CIO