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Jan 12, 2011

Small But Telling

From the Boston Globe:
Town officials in three rural Massachusetts communities said the Social Security Administration notified them this week that it will no longer send representatives to meet locally with seniors and answer their questions, because of security concerns following last week’s deadly shooting rampage in Arizona.

In Palmer and Ware — small towns east of Springfield — and on Nantucket, 30 miles off Cape Cod, town clerks and senior center directors said the federal workers who contacted their towns specifically cited the weekend violence ...

Yesterday, however, Social Security officials denied any connection between the shootings and ending outreach efforts in some less populated areas, attributing the changes to budget cutbacks instead. ...

“There may have been a misinterpretation of the message,’’ said Stephen Richardson, a Boston-based regional spokesman for the Social Security Administration. “In terms of word for word, I wasn’t there, and I don’t know what the words were, but . . . our actions are not related to the tragedy in Arizona.’’ ...

For Nantucket residents, the nearest Social Security office is on the Cape, an hourlong boat ride away.
There are a couple of unappealing things that appear to be on display here. First, a Social Security employee tries to use a tragedy as an excuse for doing something they would have done anyway. Second, when called on it, a Social Security spokesperson, while admitting that he does not know what was said, is still sure that the problem is not what was said but people "misinterpreting" what was said. These are seemingly small things but they speak poorly for those involved.
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    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This has absolutely nothing to do with "violence." SSA does not want to be bothered meeting with people at contact stations -- or even at the main offices. In-person customers are a bother interfering with the real work of pushing paper around the desks. They want folks to do business on-line and to call only on the 800 number. They have even made it very difficult to call local offices with the ridiculously long VOIP telephone numbers and extensions, and 5-minutes of menu items and advertising if you dare dial. Then leave a voice message that won't be returned.

    3:04 PM, January 12, 2011  
    Anonymous Nancy Ortiz said...

    That "spokesman" was just great at his job. "We didn't mean it that way!", is an unsatisfactory answer to a question like "Why the cut in service?" How about the CR that effectively reduces SSA's appropriation for all services and functions, office supplies, rents and salaries and threatened 10% reductions in staff and budgest across the board. Travel is the first thing to go when money is tight. Travel to contact stations requires employees' mileage or fares to be paid. Meanwhile, no money for photocopy/computer paper. Something's got to give and it's not the paper.

    Otherwise, SSA does want to cut down on face-to-face service using telephone/internet contact instead. I'm surprised they still had a contact station in Nantucket. It's not Alaska or an Indian Reservation in NDak, NM, or AZ. Still, affected beneficiaries/claimants deserved a full, clear, and truthful answer. They may not like it, but they should know.

    6:12 PM, January 12, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Public Service? What's that? All this technology isn't making the Agency better its making it more "efficient". See post above about the gentleman from Texas.

    11:27 PM, January 12, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Anyone who knows anything about SSA knows that decisions such as this (whether to curtail a contact station) are not made in days. Everything has to be approved up the chain. There is thus no possibility that the decision could have been related to the Arizona shooting.

    We all know the real reason is federal funding. However, any SSA Manager who cited the CM or attempted to blame anyone (Congress or otherwise) for the cutback would be summarily fired.

    1:06 PM, January 13, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Regarding face to face contact, my local SSA office has changed its phone system so as to guarantee more of it. I learned just this week that the new phone system will not let anyone get through to a live person unless you have a worker's extension number. The only voice prompt you get is to enter an extension. Therefore, I'll be going in person to try to ask a question about my client's claim. I guess it's just as well, since none of the reps will call me back anyway.

    1:38 PM, January 13, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    A4: In fairness to the office involved, they probably don't know how to program the new VOIP system. The thing is a disaster and requires a master's in software engineering to make changes.

    11:34 AM, January 14, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The poster with the comments about the time frames to close an office/contact station is correct. This was NOT an overnight decision and SSA notified those communities and Congressional offices months ago. This smells like a reporter looking for a "big bad gubmint" story.

    6:25 PM, January 14, 2011  

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