WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is calling on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to maintain in-person services that provide Mainers with important documents like income verification statements and Social Security Numbers. In a letter to SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, Michaud expressed his concerns with plans to discontinue in-person documentation services at the eight SSA field offices across Maine by the end of this summer.
"We should be focused on making access to critical services easier for Mainers -- not harder," said Michaud. "Right now, Mainers can walk into a Social Security Administration office and easily request documents that they often need in a timely manner -- like a Social Security Number or income verification. Shifting these services to online or phone-only requests will add significant wait times and will certainly harm those who live in rural areas or don't have easy access to the internet."
The changes would begin to go into effect by the end of the summer. This marks the first time that individuals will be required to use the internet for an SSA service. Many, particularly in rural areas, do not have access to reliable internet service. Additionally, the Pew Research Center recently found that less than 60 percent of seniors were internet users. Shifting services to online and phone-only impacts accessibility to documents Mainers frequently use for tax purposes, and to apply for jobs, car loans, mortgages, rental agreements and more.
Michaud also asked Acting Commissioner Colvin for more information on the revisions to service, including how SSA plans to ensure that services are not negatively impacted for the nearly 20 percent of Americans who do not use the internet at work, home or by mobile device; whether existing SSA field offices will offer self- service kiosks with internet access; and how SSA is planning to handle the likely volume increase in document requests by phone. A full copy of Michaud's letter is available here.
"SSA owes Mainers more information about how they plan to continue providing timely service if they do indeed move forward with these changes," added Michaud. "I look forward to getting more details from Acting Commissioner Colvin, and I hope that officials will take into consideration the very serious impacts this change will have on Mainers and Americans."