SSA to close offices earlier to cut overtime

Thursday - 10/4/2012, 6:26am EDT

Social Security Administration offices around the country will close to the public 30 minutes early starting Nov. 19 in a bid to save on overtime costs.

Additionally, starting in 2013, offices will close at 12 p.m. on Wednesdays.

"We are making additional changes to our offices to allow our employees to complete late interviews and incoming claims and address backlogged work without using overtime," said Kia Green, an SSA spokeswoman, in an email to Federal News Radio. "We are doing this as part of normal operations under a [continuing resolution]. We are operating on significantly less funding than either the agency or President Obama requested."

Congressional appropriators provided the agency with about $250 million less in funding for fiscal 2013, according to the IRS. President Barack Obama signed the stopgap funding meausure Sept 28, that will provide funding for the federal government through March 27.

SSA said it could not provide a figure for how much the change in hours would save.

Union decries lack of public access

Green said SSA employees "will continue to work full time and get paid for their full time work." The changes only affect the hours agency field offices will be available to the public.

But the American Federal of Government Employees, which represents some 27,000 SSA employees said that's precisely the problem.

"This decision is a deliberate attempt by Commissioner [Michael] Astrue to deny Social Security beneficiaries and the public access to critical information they need to successfully navigate the system," said Witold Skwierczynski, president of AFGE's Social Security Council, in a release. "

Skwierczynski cited the closing of 46 regional offices over the past two years, among other service cuts.

"The pattern is clear, SSA is saying to the public, ‘We are getting out of the service business, you're on your own,'" he said.

This isn't the first time budget pressures have forced SSA to reduce public hours. The agency began closing its field offices nationwide 30 minutes early last August to reduce employee overtime.

(Federal News Radio's Jack Moore contributed to this report)

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