Congressman concerned shut down would create access issues for seniors and people with disabilities
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, is pledging to fight a plan by the Social Security Administration to close its field office in Amherst.
"The announced closing of the Amherst Social Security office would create real access barriers to seniors and people with disabilities in Western New York," he said. "These residents endure long delays due to case backlogs, and this move would add new and unnecessary obstacles to those already facing challenges."
Higgins noted a resident living at a senior facility in Amherst taking public transit would have to take a bus, rail and walk more than a quarter mile to reach the Social Security office in Buffalo - a trip taking more than an hour one-way.
Higgins district, which includes Amherst, is home to approximately 180,000 Social Security beneficiaries.
The Social Security Administration operates 75 offices across New York, including four in the Buffalo Niagara region (located in Amherst, Buffalo, Niagara Falls and West Seneca). The Social Security Administration announced this week plans to close its office in Amherst on March 28. The Amherst office is located in the Century Mall on Sheridan Drive.
In 2008, SSA closed a field office in Cheektowaga. In the SSA New York region alone, 14 offices have been closed in the past three years.
Higgins noted the four locations in Erie-Niagara have already undergone significant staff reductions contributing to cost savings locally and nationally. The Amherst office has seen a 69 percent cut in staffing over the past 20 years - the largest reduction of the 20 Western New York regional offices. Staff at the Buffalo office has reduced by 67 percent, and the West Seneca Ridge Road office, which consolidated with Cheektowaga after it closed, saw a 36 percent cut in staff over the past two decades.
In 2012, Higgins introduced the Social Security Administration Accountability Act (H.R. 4082), which would require the SSA to halt field office closings until SSA transmit to Congress a report that includes caseload data, service population and staffing levels at field offices, as well as the process by which office closings are selected.