Social Security Disability benefits are difficult to get for applicants and as our Boston disability lawyersrecently wrote, there is serious budget shortfall that could result in a significant benefits reduction if Congress does not act. While most people are aware of these challenges, however, the Huffington Post has recently reported on “dramatic changes” that “threaten to end Social Security as we know it” that almost no one has heard of.
The Huffington Post was talking about Vision 2025, which is a long-range plan that the head of the Social Security Administration has drafted. The plan would make it much more difficult for people seeking help with Social Security issues to get the benefits they need.
Vision 2025 Causes Serious Concerns
There are currently 1,200 Social Security offices throughout the country serving more than 43 million clients. Unfortunately, as our attorneys have recently discussed, many offices are closing and have closed in recent years as a result of budget cuts. In the past three years alone, 12 percent of employees have left the Social Security Administration and customers are already waiting three times longer to get help when they call the 1-800 number. The website also cannot meet the demand of those who need help from the Administration.
Things are going to get worse. Approximately a third of the Social Security Administration workforce is expected to retire within the next 10 years, and the SSA administrator is not coming up with a plan to replace these workers with trained and experienced personnel.
Instead, Vision 2025 spells out a future in which almost all field officers are shut down, leaving the agency with a “significantly smaller and more virtual workforce.” Anyone who has heard news stories of hard drive crashes among the IRS and the EPA, not to mention problems with getting VA computers up-to-date and the issues when Healthcare.gov debuted should be very concerned about a government plan that relies on technology to service customers effectively.
The employees who will be left to try to provide assistance to consumers will not necessarily be trained specialists who have experience with the SSA system. Instead, the employees who are going to be left behind and who are going to take the place of retiring workers will be “generalists” who do not have the skills or knowledge to address questions about benefits.
Finally, Vision 2025 specifies that consumers can reach an actual claims representative only in “very limited circumstances” through phone calls, video conferences, online chats or in-person visits. The only way to interact with the SSA in most cases will be through “online self-service delivery.”
Setting aside concerns about the ability of the government agency to effectively manage its IT portal, asking the disabled and seniors to try to navigate an online system seems like a recipe for disaster. Many people who need assistance understanding their benefits or applying for disability income are likely to be left without the help that they need to get the money to support themselves and their families.
If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
More Blog Entries:
Could Your Social Security Office be in Danger of Closing? June 2, 2014, Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Lawyer Blog