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Virginia Butler, Democrat and Chronicle
Saying that the Rochester field office has one of the poorest records in the state, Sen. Charles Schumer on Monday called on the Social Security Administration to increase staffing to address long wait times and a backlog of cases.
Schumer said the Administration’s internal reporting showed that the Rochester office only answered about 41 percent calls from customers seeking help on the phone in January. Those that ventured into the office had to wait an average of 30.4 minutes to be seen by a screener and hours longer to meet with a claims representative to discuss their problem. Hundreds simply gave up and went home.
“Rochester seniors and those waiting for a Social Security hearing are sick and tired of sitting in waiting rooms or listening to hold music while they wait to speak with a Social Security specialist,” Schumer told a group of seniors who gathered at the Henrietta Senior Center for lunch Monday. “With baby boomers retiring and becoming eligible for Social Security benefits — 10,000 reaching the retirement age every day — it’s becoming more and more clear that field offices across upstate New York are unable to keep up with demand — and the Rochester field office, which has one of the poorest records in the state, is clearly no exception.”
Schumer said he’s vowing to reverse the administration’s proposed cuts to the Social Security Administration and will push for $100 million in new federal funding to address the staffing issues at Social Security field offices.
The root problem is that the Rochester office has not increased staffing in the last decade to keep up with the growing population of seniors in the region. The staffing shortages have forced them to reduce operating hours, Schumer says, with the Rochester office closing at noon on Wednesdays and 4 p.m. on other weekdays.
Other advocates in attendance said the problems will only grow worse if they aren’t addressed now.
“Nearly 18 million more baby boomers will reach traditional retirement age over the next decade,” said David McNally, AARP New York Director of Government Affairs & Advocacy. “Without additional funding for the Social Security Administration, already-long waits on the phone and at regional offices will only get longer for Social Security recipients.”
Leanne Rorick, Director of NY Connects at Lifespan of Greater Rochester says her agency hears from seniors every day who’ve grown frustrated with their efforts to work with the local Social Security office
“We often field calls from Rochester area older adults right after they tried to call the Social Security office only to be met with long hold times,” Rorick said. “Social Security is the financial lifeline for so many older adults so we applaud Senator Schumer’s efforts to decrease wait times and improve responsiveness.”
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