Social Security Administration field offices are again trimming the hours they are open to the public due to tight budgets, a top administrator told employees in a Wednesday email.
Starting Nov. 19, all 1,233 offices will close to customers 30 minutes earlier, Mary Glenn-Croft, deputy SSA commissioner for operations, said in the email. As of Jan. 2, the offices will close to the public at noon on Wednesdays, she said.
This is the second time the agency has been forced to trim office hours because of budget considerations. SSA trimmed public office hours at its offices by 30 minutes in August 2011.
The changes are aimed at cutting overtime use by allowing field office staff to complete interviews and claims work within regular hours, Glenn-Croft said. As of next month, a field office that currently closes to the public at 3:30 will instead shut its doors at 3:00, she added.
In emailed responses to questions from Federal Times, SSA spokeswoman Kia Green said the shift is “part of normal operations” under the six-month continuing resolution signed last week by President Obama. That stop-gap spending bill leaves SSA operating with “significantly” less money than either the agency or the Obama administration requested, Green said.
The American Federation of Government Employees has asked the agency to bargain over the looming cuts and will also protest to Congress, Witold Skwierczynski, president of the union council that represents some 28,000 workers in SSA field offices and tele-service centers, said in an interview Wednesday.
While less overtime will hurt employees whose base pay has also been frozen for the last two years, Skwierczynski said, he saw the reductions as part of a push by SSA leaders to replace face-to-face contact between agency employees and the public with more reliance on the Internet and telephone.
SSA last year shuttered 20 field offices, he said. Twenty-seven more have already closed or will close this year.
“We think it’s the wrong thing to do,” he said.