Slowly, The Monster Opens One Eye

Over the last months, Sparrow Chat has commented a number of times on the appalling state of the US Social Security Administration.[1] Increasingly heavy workloads on the shoulders of fewer and fewer employees has led to unacceptable delays in payments to disabled claimants, ridiculous waiting times at field offices, and a general submersion into gross inefficiency at all levels.

Now, it seems the monstrosity that is the SSA may be finally waking up to the rot in its system, though whether that will result in any improvement is a matter for conjecture.

Below, is an excerpt from the minutes of a 17th January, 2008 conference call of the National Council of Social Security Management Associations Executive Committee. NCSSMA is an organization of Social Security management personnel:

“The state of field offices was a hot topic of discussion. Conference call participants weighed in with comments about the impact our resource shortage is having on the Field Offices and the Teleservice Centers [TSC]. Field/TSC employee morale is at an all time low and the number of employees retiring is growing. Employees do not feel supported by the agency, and so are more prone to retire as soon as they can. Many have over 30 years of service but are at the end of their ropes because there is no hope in sight. …Some of the regions expressed the concern that new hires seem to be targeted for urban offices with little done for suburban or rural offices. New managers are overwhelmed with the decreased staff and increased workloads. Managers are increasingly involved in processing direct service workloads and tabling traditional management activities as they have no other way to provide the public service. Rising expectations from area, regional and national components to clear work are unrelenting, with new reports, listings and additional workloads being piled on field office employees. The pain needs to be felt by other components including ADO [Area Director’s Offices] and regional employees. There is a sense of doom – Field Offices are being left to wither without any assistance. …With the usual dedication, employees have been very creative in their approaches to handling staffing losses with all pitching in across the board and doing the best they can. Maybe it is time that we quit trying to prove that we can do the same amount of work, or even more, with fewer resources. The despondency and anxiety in the field and TSCs continue to grow, but our staffing losses do not seem to concern Central Office.”
[my bold]

Admittedly, the NCSSMA is only an SSA management association, but if discontent is being loudly voiced at this level, there is hope of pressure on those higher up the ladder to make improvements in service and staffing more of a priority.

Unless, of course, the rundown of Social Security over the last five-ten years has been a deliberate political ploy, designed to provide an excuse to the nation that the only sure way to fix it – is to privatize it.

Should that turn out to be the case, and privatization of Social Security is allowed to proceed, it will prove a disaster for those most in need of its help; the disabled, the sick, and the elderly.

[1] Sparrow Chat posts on the state of the SSA can be found HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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2 Replies to “Slowly, The Monster Opens One Eye”

  1. In the UK, I think comparable staff would have been out on strike on more than one occasion long before now. Although I knew a few SS and unemployment benefit staff, and they were always torn about going on strike. It was potentially very harmful to the unfortunate people they serve.

    Sometimes though it comes to a point where one has to be cruel to be kind, and a week of striking might mean a whole lot better service in the future. That pre-supposes that the government cares though. Wouldn’t work here ‘cos they don’t – not one iota. I feel sorry for the staff here.

  2. Twilight – strikes are the only power ordinary people have. Politicians hate it, they try to persuade us our power lies at the ballot box. That’s rubbish, of course. Here, the people are indoctrinated to believe a strike is unpatriotic. Ronald Reagan put the fear of God into American workers when he sacked all the air traffic controllers for striking in the 1980’s. There hasn’t been a major strike in America since. The French have always had the right idea, in my opinion. They’re not afraid to use the only the power they have.

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