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Sen. Schumer: NY Seniors Face Long Lines At Social Security Field Offices

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U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer at the Glenville Senior Center

As the Baby Boomers retire and turn to Social Security, staffers at Capital Region field offices are becoming overwhelmed. That's according to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who was in Glenville, New York this afternoon.

The Senate Minority Leader says without immediate intervention, Social Security field offices across the Capital Region could be plagued with longer wait times.   "They've cut back on the number of people who work in those offices and the backlogs are huge."

Schumer noted wait time at the Albany Field Office averaged 32 minutes while average disability claims are taking more than 600 days to process. Schumer’s office says 10,000 boomers reach retirement age every day.   "Here in New York state we have about 1,600 field officers to cover the state. It may seem like a lot, but we have 3.5 million seniors in New York state."

New Yorkers received $55 billion in Social Security benefits last year. Schumer says more than 10,000 people died last year while waiting for a disability determination.   "Since October, New York Field Office staff has processed 130,000 retirement claims, 73,000 disability and dependent claims, and took over 500,000 phone calls."

Schumer adds Congress cut the budget of the offices by 11 percent; there are 10,000 fewer employees, and 65 field offices have been closed, including 12 in New York.

The Democrat wants the federal government to immediately deliver $480 million in new funding to send emergency relief to field offices.   "I am calling on the Social Security Administration to put Albany and the Capital Region at the top of their list and get the money to us ASAP."

Tim Clune is Executive Director of Disability Rights New York:  "What the Senator did not mention was that in addition to this $480 million in the Social Security budget, he was instrumental in having a new federal program created for the beneficiaries of Social Security benefits who have representative payees. Those are people who, because a determination has been made that they cannot otherwise handle their money, someone else would be appointed to handle it for them. Over the years there has been scandal upon scandal regarding the use of this money, not for the beneficiary, but for the representative payee."

Clune says the bill creating this new program moved out of the Senate and was signed by the president on Friday.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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