Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, wrote to the acting commissioner of Social Security, Carolyn Colvin, expressing his concerns with the proposed plans to close the Amherst Social Security office.
"Closing the Amherst Social Security office would be devastating for the seniors, students and people with disabilities who rely on its services the most," Higgins said. "The proposal to close the office was both ill-conceived and unnecessary, and I urge the Social Security Administration to reconsider."
In his letter, Higgins points to the recently passed fiscal year 2014 budget, which includes an additional $11.7 billion appropriated to the Social Security Administration for administrative expenses that could eliminate the need to consolidate field offices.
Higgins writes the service area for the Amherst office includes a large number of individuals who may have difficulty traveling to the Buffalo office, either because of disability or lack of accessibility to public transportation. And, even on public transportation, trips could take long periods of time and would require travel by rail, bus and on foot.
Higgins also notes the growing international student population at the University at Buffalo - whose two campuses are in close proximity to the Amherst field office - relies on the Social Security office to assist with the necessary paperwork for on-campus employment or obtaining a New York state driver's license. More than 4,800 international students were enrolled at UB last year.
In addition, the area is home to a number of private social services agencies that assist developmentally disabled youth and adults, including People Inc. in Amherst, Autism Services in Williamsville, Aspire of Western New York in Getzville, and Learning Disabilities Association of WNY in Kenmore.
According to the Social Security Administration's own review, the Amherst field office serves a 268.9-square-mile area with a population of 384,515. The office services 17 of the 36 nursing homes in Erie County. The Amherst office sees approximately 36,000 people annually, and the average wait time at the facility is 30 minutes.
In 2008, the Cheektowaga Social Security field office was closed. Since then, the Amherst office has maintained a steady caseload, processing more than 32 percent of all retirement, survivors and disability insurance claims in Erie County, and seeing a 50 percent increase in Medicare recipients.