Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue has been asked to consider “all feasible alternatives" when considering the closure of his agency's field offices. Branches in Biloxi, Miss., Ketchikan, Alaska; Louisville, Ky.; Washington, D.C.; and Clinton, Iowa, are all facing the ax, according to the American Federation of Government Employees. (Getty Images)
The Social Security Administration will close five field offices by the end of September, according to the union representing agency employees.
Those five, among almost 1,300 nationwide, are in Biloxi, Miss., Ketchikan, Alaska; Louisville, Ky.; Washington, D.C.; and Clinton, Iowa, the American Federation of Government Employees said in a news release.
The agency has already closed eight field offices since January.
In an email, SSA spokesman Mark Hinkle said the five offices are being consolidated with others and no worker will lose their jobs. The single employee in the Ketchikan office is retiring, Hinkle said.
In the last two years, he added, Congress has provided the agency with about $2 billion less than the Obama administration requested.
“Given the tight budget situation, we’ve had to make tough choices, including consolidating a small number of our offices,” Hinkle said.
The planned closings are the latest in a string of belt-tightening moves by SSA leaders. Last August, for example, field offices around the country began closing to the public a half-hour early to cut down on the need for overtime.
The latest step is already drawing protests from lawmakers who represent affected communities. Closing the Ketchikan field office would reportedly save only $100,000, members of the Alaska delegation said in a July 13 letter to Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue. They urged Astrue to consider “all feasible alternatives.”
The closings will leave thousands of citizens without access to benefits information and service representatives, AFGE charged. Instead of shutting down full service offices, the Social Security Administration should close more than 40 “area director offices” that do not provide service directly to the public, Witold Skwierczynski, president of the AFGE council that represents Social Security employees, said in the release.