At the request of Congress, the Social Security Administration contracted with the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to conduct a study and submit a high-level plan proposing a long-range strategic vision for the Agency. The purpose of this plan is to “help the agency address the service delivery challenges it will face in the coming ten to fifteen years”. Three of the seven panel members who formulated this plan are former high-level SSA officials.
At a labor management meeting in Baltimore on 03/12/14, the draft 2025 vision plan for SSA was unveiled and presented to AFGE for comment. The study overview of the Academy and their draft vision plan are attached to this e-mail. Just in case you are thinking that you do not need to read it, because you rarely if ever read the union e-mails we send you, you had better think again and open these documents up and read them, and do it soon.
This draft plan, referenced in the 2015 SSA Performance Plan available on the SSA Internet site would, by 2025:
- Virtually eliminate the field operations structure of SSA (including field offices and teleservice centers) as we know them;
- Eliminate most if not all of our jobs through a combination of automation and contracting out of our core services.
Did you know that SSA previously explored the possibility of contracting out the 800# services we provide to inmates in the Bureau of Prisons? Well, guess what, not only would that be possible for any remaining work after automation was fully implemented under this plan, under current trade agreements it would open up potential contracting out to foreign countries as well.
SSA management at the highest levels has obviously endorsed this plan, or they would not have referenced it in their 2015 Performance Plan.
AFGE learned, at the 03/12/14 meeting where this plan was unveiled, that the Academy that prepared this 2025 Vision plan for presentation to SSA and Congress this year, considered that they had conducted “extensive outreach to SSA leadership and employees, as well as external stakeholder groups.” by:
- Visiting one “SSA facility/office” – We have no idea (they did not tell us) if this was an SSA field office, card center, teleservice center, program center, ODAR office, OQP office, RO, the DOC, or Central Office.
- Speaking with fifteen “Futurists” – simple definition of these people seems to be “a person who studies the future in order to help people understand, anticipate, prepare for and gain advantage from coming changes.”
To AFGE’s knowledge, they DID NOT speak to:
- Any members of the public.
- Any employees who provide front-line services to the public.
- Any constituency groups that are involved in efforts to preserve Social Security programs and services or who serve the populations that SSA deals with.
They do NOT understand that we provide services to people who are unable to navigate through automated services due to many factors that include age, disability, income, resources, and language difficulties. They do not care to get input from these stakeholders, from employees or their Unions, or from other organizations that serve these populations because if they did they would learn that the public does NOT want to receive services from us in the manner that they envision for our Agency in 2025!
SSA has been closing contact stations (1500+ to date), resident stations (almost all), and field offices (80 and counting) over the last several years. SSA has dramatically reduced the hours of service to the public in field offices and through TSCs . SSA has plans to eliminate field office issuance of Numilites, field office issuance of benefit verifications to the public, and is in the testing phase of eliminating face-to-face interaction to replace Social Security cards. In addition, SSA intends to install thousands of self-service kiosks located in external, non-SSA locations, known as “SSA Express Kiosks” that will allow customers to conduct business without having to travel to field office locations, even if they do not have personal Internet equipment or access. These kiosks will have video conferencing and chat features.
SSA has been using SSA personnel (many of you) to advertise/advocate for, and assist members of the public in using electronic services. All of these were, we now believe, in preparation for the implementation of the “Vision 2025” plan presented to AFGE on 03/12/14.
In the Office of Quality Review (OQR) work is often done in Regions other than the Region in which the applicant, recipient, or beneficiary resides, and home visits have been eliminated – all making the possibility of contracting these functions out quite possible. In addition, in ODAR AFGE has learned that SSA intends to hire some staff in the future for telework only, and to centralize more work in Regional Hearing Centers rather than having community based Hearing Offices – the National Hearing Centers have already been established at the expense of community-based ODAR field office jobs!
So folks, here’s the plan - read it and weep! But you can’t cry over what’s going to happen too long because you need to decide if your job and the valuable services that you provide to the American public are worth fighting for!
For those of you who don’t believe this will ever happen, get your heads out of the sand – it IS SSA’s plan, bought and paid for, ready to present to Congress as their vision for SSA, and it’s already referenced in their 2015 SSA Performance Plan!
Unless AFGE (which means all of you who are members, not just your AFGE Councils, Officers, and representatives but YOU, the members that make up AFGE); constituency groups fighting for the preservation of our programs and services; and each and every one of you (member or not) who values your job and the worth of the services you provide stands up and makes SSA leadership, Congress, and the American public understand what is truly at stake, this IS OUR FUTURE!
So what can you do now? Read these documents. Talk to your family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances about the Agency plans every time you have the opportunity.
If you are a member, also ask your Local (AFGE Local 3937) what you can do to help in the fight! Yes, this might mean participating in informational picket lines on your lunch, and it might mean taking some leave, or even volunteering on a weekend – is your job worth it? If you are member, sign up for the AFGE Action network, so that AFGE can alert you by personal e-mail or cell when we need you to do something! You can do this by logging into AFGE.org using your AFGE membership number – if you don’t know what it is, contact us and we’ll provide it to you.
If you’re not a member, you can still get involved by reading e-mails from AFGE Local 3937, and responding to requests to employees for demonstrations and other actions when you receive them – but you can’t sign up for the AFGE Action network to receive alerts when actions are planned.