Becerra & DeLauro Applaud SSA Decision On Benefit Verifications

July 17, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congressman Xavier Becerra, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, released the following statement after the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced it would continue providing benefit verification letters to Social Security beneficiaries, reversing a previous decision:

“I applaud the Social Security Administration for hearing and responding to our concerns about turning away vulnerable Americans who need benefit verifications to secure basic necessities like food and housing,” said Congressman Xavier Becerra. “Even considering Social Security’s current staff shortages, it would have been a mistake. Nonetheless, Congress needs to do its job and undo the Republican cuts that are making it increasingly difficult for Social Security to provide all Americans with the service they paid for.”

“Today’s decision is great news for the millions of people who would have been harmed by the Social Security Administration’s decision,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. “The most vulnerable in our society do not need any more obstacles put in their path to obtaining simple necessities like food or shelter. Now Congress must do its part and ensure the Social Security Administration has the necessary resources to do the job the American people expect.”

BACKGROUND:

In December 2013, the Social Security Administration announced it would turn away people who came to their local offices to get “benefit verifications” and direct them to either call Social Security’s 800 number or obtain the documents via the Internet. Many Social Security beneficiaries need benefit verifications from SSA in order to apply for other state and federal means-tested programs.

In response, Congress passed legislation (H.J. Res. 106) in January 2014 prohibiting SSA from implementing the new policy in fiscal year 2014. At that time, SSA planned to implement the policy on October 1, 2014 (the day after FY 2014 ended).

In May 2014, Congressman Becerra and Congresswoman DeLauro wrote to Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin raising concerns about how SSA would implement the change in policy. On July 16, 2014, Commissioner Colvin responded to the letter announcing they would no longer seek to implement the policy change, and would continue to provide the benefit verification letters in their field offices.

Despite a rising number of Americans receiving earned Social Security benefits, SSA’s budget is currently lower than it was in 2010. As a result, SSA has lost about 10 percent of its staff in local Social Security offices, waiting times for earned disability benefits have grown, local office hours have been reduced, and waiting times for in-person and phone service have risen. Congressman Becerra and Congresswoman DeLauro have fought to ensure that SSA has the resources it needs to pay every American their earned benefits, on time, and in full.”