Internet Application Process Has Problems

Michael Astrue, the Social Security Administration (SSA) commissioner, went full throttle with an internet claims system. Those seeking retirement or disability benefits are encouraged to fill out forms online.

At a recent union meeting, Social Security employees expressed reservations about the internet application process. “85 percent of the time the person is disadvantaging themselves. They complete the information based on what their neighbor told them. They’re guessing.”

AFGE has surveyed claims representatives, who receive 12 to 16 weeks of intense training to know the system, and found them unhappy with I-claims.

“We are trained to pay the right person the right amount at the right time and not play games with people’s livelihoods,” Duggins said. “The old-timers have always had the ethics of going the extra mile to make sure you’re being paid correctly. Now the policy’s changed to ‘you no longer question this.’

“We have employees all over that take the effort to do it anyway.”

Employees are supposed to review online claims, but only by working them in around their face-to-face appointments—and both personnel and overtime have been cut drastically. SSA will soon be down to 45,000 AFGE-represented members, from 53,000 in 2010. Overtime was cut to 17,000 hours this year, less than a half-hour annually per worker, and will be zero in the next fiscal year.

Offices are also closing earlier. To top it off, as of October 1, taxpayers are no longer mailed annual statements of their accumulated benefits. “That benefit statement reiterates to young folks, ‘you are getting something back,’” Duggins said. “Take that away and it allows for the doubts to creep in.” Full story here: