On 84th Anniversary of the Social Security Act Signing, Higgins Announces Introduction of the Social Security Administration Accountability Act
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced introduction of the Social Security Administration Accountability Act of 2019 (H.R. 3905), legislation protecting access to Social Security services. Higgins made the announcement on August 14, as the nation celebrates the 84th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of the Social Security bill into law.
Since 2007 the Social Security Administration has closed 18 field offices in New York State alone, including Western New York office closings in Cheektowaga in 2007 and Amherst in 2014. A total of 127 offices have closed across the nation since 2002, impacting access to services and further complicating a program that can be wrought with red tape.
“The system, as it currently exists, allows bureaucrats in Washington, DC to arbitrarily make decisions about how services will be provided in communities like Western New York without hearing from the public or giving clear justification for decisions that impact thousands of Social Security recipients in any given area,” said Higgins, a member of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. “Social Security is a lifeline for many, delivering hard-earned benefits that allow seniors to retire with dignity and independence. We need to protect these resources and make it easier, not harder to access the benefits Americans have worked for.”
The Social Security Administration Accountability Act of 2019 would give Congress more power in evaluating and improving Social Security Administration services to the public by requiring the agency to submit an annual report with information including the number of cases pending and staffing levels in local field offices. Additionally, the bill would require the Social Security Administration to hold public hearings in affected communities before closing or consolidating a field office, which would give community members a voice in protecting the services provided in their community.
Higgins is the lead sponsor of the bill. Original cosponsors also include Reps. Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Val Demings (FL-10), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Bennie G. Thompson (MS-2), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Nydia Velazquez (NY-7), Susan Wild (PA-7) and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), and Max Rose (NY-11). The bill is also supported by several organizations including: Social Security Works, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, the American Federation of Government Employees, and the Association of Administration Law Judges.
Higgins is also a cosponsor of the Social Security 2100 Act, legislation led by Rep. John Larson (CT-1) that strengthens Social Security and ensures solvency through the year 2100. The bill would provide a modest increase in benefits for recipients, improve the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) formula to better keep pace with inflation, raise the minimum benefit to ensure low income workers do not retire into poverty, raise the cap on taxable income for high earners making above $400,000, and cut taxes for 12 million middle-income beneficiaries.
In 1935, before Social Security half of all Americans over the age of 65 lived in poverty. Although benefits are modest, with the average retiree beneficiary receiving less than $17,000 in Social Security annually, the program lifts 22 million Americans out of poverty.
Social Security is an important safety-net for Western New Yorkers in particular. Twenty-two percent of the residents living in Congressman Higgins’ district are Social Security recipients and a total of close to 500,000 people receive Social Security across the Western New York region’s three Congressional districts (NY23, NY26, NY27).