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Higgins, Kulpa announce plan to maintain Social Security services in Williamsville

by jmaloni

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Mon, Jun 23rd 2014 08:05 pm

New access point provided by village after Amherst office closes 

Congressman Brian Higgins and Village of Williamsville Mayor Brian Kulpa announced a plan to preserve access to Social Security services for residents in northern Erie County. Under an agreement with the Village of Williamsville, residents will be able to connect with Social Security Administration caseworkers directly from Village Hall.

"While we still disagree with the Social Security Administration's decision to close the Amherst field office, through the cooperation of the Village of Williamsville, under the leadership of Mayor Kulpa, residents will be able to access Social Security appointments in Village Hall, providing a location that is accessible and close to home for those in need of Social Security," Higgins said. "The Village of Williamsville's willingness to step up and open their doors as a Social Security satellite site is a true service to residents in the village, town, and across Northern Erie County."

"We thank Congressman Higgins for fighting to ensure our residents and those in surrounding areas have convenient access to Social Security offices and support staff," Kulpa said. "We are happy to host these essential services at Village Hall."

The Village Board is expected to move forward with approval of the plan at its meeting on June 23. Following the finalization of paperwork with the Social Security Administration, equipment, provided by SSA, will be installed at Village Hall to allow residents to remotely connect with a caseworker in the Buffalo SSA office.

According to the Social Security Administration's own review, the Amherst field office served a 268.9-square-mile area with a population of 384,515, including 17 of the 36 nursing homes in Erie County. The Amherst office previously saw approximately 36,000 people annually.

Higgins was a vocal advocate for keeping the Amherst Social Security field office open since plans for closure was first announced. He stood with impacted communities to raise awareness for the pressing need for the local office, led an effort on a letter with other congress members opposing field office closings in New York, raised the issue on the House Floor, and spoke directly with SSA Commissioner Colvin. Higgins also introduced H.R. 3997, the Social Security Administration Accountability Act, which would require that the Social Security Administration provide adequate justification before closing any field offices. 

The Village of Williamsville Board of Trustees also adopted a resolution calling for a halt to the Amherst office closing during its meeting on March 24.

Still, the Social Security Administration moved forward with its plans to close the Amherst field office on April 25. An office in Cheektowaga closed in 2008. Field offices remain open in Niagara Falls, West Seneca and Buffalo.

The SSA process for field office closings have come under additional scrutiny just recently with a recent U.S. Senate hearing and release of a report on the "Reduction in Face-to-Face Services at the Social Security Administration."

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