Warner presses Social Security Administration on delays during COVID-19
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner participated in a virtual Senate Finance Committee hearing about the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the Social Security Administration on Thursday.
On March 17, 2020, the U.S. Social Security Administration closed its field offices in an effort to ensure social distancing and other safety measures. Since then, the administration has seen a number of service delivery challenges, as well as a dramatic decline in disability applications and benefits awarded to at-risk populations.
In the hearing, Sen. Warner questioned the SSA’s Deputy Commissioner for Operations about the administration’s plans to reopen field offices as vaccines become more widely available, and asked about its ability to serve vulnerable populations going forward.
As part of his opening remarks, Sen. Warner highlighted the struggles of one Virginia mom, who reached out to the senator’s office because she needed to request a copy of her son’s social security card in order to file her taxes, but was unable to do so, due to the severe limitations on in-person appointments.
“I’m getting inundated with constituents who’ve got really heartbreaking stories. I had a constituent named Marie, who had a young son – literally a 1-year-old son – who had his social security number stolen. She didn’t know his social security number… so she was told she had to send in all this paperwork, including the original copy of her driver’s license, which is just baffling to me, because if she knew that if she sent her driver’s license in and she had to still drive to work… she was going to get fined,” said Sen. Warner. “When she finally got a response, she was told, ‘well, you can file an extension on your taxes.’ This is causing some real consternation, and I really do hope you will be working within OMB restrictions to get more of these in-person appointments scheduled.”
In the hearing, Sen. Warner acknowledged the restrictions placed on SSA by an Office of Management and Budget guidance that can limit agencies from bringing more than 25 percent of personnel back to field offices.
Despite this, Sen. Warner highlighted the need for SSA to make more in-person appointments available for more Americans.
Sen. Warner concluded his remarks by emphasizing that SSA must conduct outreach to vulnerable populations to ensure they are made aware of the benefits they qualify for – especially given the past year’s steep decline in applications for Supplemental Security Income benefits.