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Lipinski urges SSA to keep walk-in services

Dan Lipinski

Dan Lipinski

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Updated: January 23, 2014 6:42AM

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski has asked the Social Security Administration to reconsider its plan to end certain walk-in services at its local offices in February.

In response to my column last Sunday, Lipinski, in a letter dated Dec. 19 to Carolyn Colvin, acting administrator of Social Security, expressed “deep concern about recent reports that the Social Security Administration is planning to eliminate a number of walk-in office services.”

“While online and telephone services can help increase efficiency in government programs,” Lipinski, D-3rd, wrote, “in-person assistance remains critical for many vulnerable groups, such as seniors with limited access to the Internet. I support your efforts to encourage the public to use phone and Internet when possible but urge the SSA to do so without ending the availability of walk-in services entirely.”

Referring to the specific programs the Social Security Administration intends to eliminate at local offices, Lipinski noted that benefit notification letters and Social Security number printouts no longer would be available.

“Yet many of my constituents lack access to computers or the Internet and consistently reach out to my offices for assistance that requires exactly these services,” the congressman stated. “Leaving telephone contact as the only option for these constituents means that they could experience significant delays in receiving their paperwork compared to the same-day customer service they have come to expect under current rules.

“The SSA’s announcement mentions an exception to these service changes for ‘dire need’ circumstances. However, it is not clear how ‘dire need’ will be defined or implemented.”

Jill Hornick, a union representative for the Social Security Administration Field Operations Local, has said the SSA’s initiative is aimed at eventually closing its field offices and eliminating jobs. She said SSA supervisors have told employees that people who don’t have a home computer should be directed to use a computer at a public library.

Lipinski said he doesn’t view that as a “sufficient solution. Transmitting sensitive information to public computers is not a good security practice and exposes users to needless risk of identify theft.”

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