Ever since the start of the pandemic, there have been frequent complaints about the quality of Social Security’s customer service. The agency’s offices were closed until last month, and recipients have complained about long waits on the phone, among other issues.
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have been writing letters demanding that the committee hold a hearing on these issues.
“Over the past few months, the SSA has gradually increased in-office service in certain, limited, critical cases and will resume in-office service for all members of the public today. However, the SSA anticipates that reopening will result in delays and long waits for customers who haven’t scheduled an appointment, which generally requires calling the SSA ahead of time,” the Republicans’ early-April letter said.
“In the more than two years since the SSA closed its offices to the general public, this committee has not held a single hearing to discuss these challenges, despite the difficulties that our constituents have had and continue to face when trying to do business with the SSA,” the letter said. “As Representatives of the American public, it is incumbent that we ensure that the government by the People continues to work for the People.”
Now, it appears the Republicans on the committee have gotten their wish. A hearing, titled “Strengthening Social Security’s Customer Service,” is now scheduled for May 17. The hearing is officially listed as being held by the Social Security Subcommittee, which is within the House Ways and Means Committee.
There does not appear to have been any announcement, as of yet, on who will testify before the hearing, or what its focus will be.
As for the other major Social Security-related issue before Congress, there does not appear to have been any recent movement of late on Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, the Social Security reform plan introduced by Rep. John Larson (D-CT). A hearing was held last December in the Social Security Subcommittee, which Larson himself chairs, but the reform plan has not been moved forward for a vote.
However, Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who represent Ohio but are members of opposing parties, recently introduced what they call the Savings Penalty Elimination Act, which would reform the Social Security-affiliated Supplemental Security Income Program.
“Rising costs and inflation is hurting all Americans, but especially our nation’s seniors and those with disabilities. Yet the Supplemental Security Income program that serves these vulnerable populations hasn’t been updated in decades and punishes them for trying to save responsibly,” Senator Portman said in the announcement.
“I am pleased to introduce this legislation with Senator Brown to update SSI’s restrictive asset limits and better meet the needs of vulnerable seniors and Ohioans with disabilities.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.