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Higgins: 'Social security violating own rules on Amherst closing'

by jmaloni

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Fri, Feb 7th 2014 11:00 pm

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, said the Social Security Administration is violating its own rules by failing to adhere to the 90-day notification standard included in the agency's field office consolidation manual.

"The Social Security Administration has failed to live up to the standard it placed on itself, which already is the bare minimum it owes communities facing office closings," Higgins said. "On its face, shutting down a service that meets the needs of a population of over 350,000, including entities with very specialized challenges, in just 10 weeks, seems unreasonable, and now we know it is also a breach of their own rules. Therefore, it's only right for the Social Security administration to abandon plans to close the Amherst office."

In a letter to Acting Commissioner Colvin, Higgins said the SSA failed to notify employees, community partners and congressional offices within the self-mandated timeline. The congressman reiterates opposition to the proposed closing, and calls on the SSA leader to host a meeting to hear from the community.

"I cannot stress enough the severe impact the proposal to close the Amherst Social Security office would have on the surrounding community, and invite you to hold a public meeting in Western New York to hear from those impacted," Higgins wrote.

On Jan. 14, the Social Security Administration notified employees and congressional offices of plans to close the Amherst field office on March 28. Higgins noted this represents only 73 days notice. Furthermore, he said the SSA never formally notified community partners as prescribed in its consolidation manual.

According to the manual, affected employees, officials of the appropriate union(s), congressional representatives, large advocacy groups and influential community partners are supposed to receive 90-day notice.

Higgins has been actively fighting the Amherst closure since the day it was announced, previously writing to the SSA acting commissioner, standing up with local agencies impacted by the proposal, and introducing the Social Security Administration Accountability Act.

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