AFGE, Local 3937
Local Business Meeting
July 13, 2016
Labor Temple, Seattle WA
Present were: Steve Kofahl, Carrie Kitchin-Kofahl, Laura Novakoski, Ivan Weich, Tim Roark, Ardeth Bolin, Melanie Broady, John Pfannenstein, Cassandra Butler and James Paxton.
The meeting was called to order at 7:06pm.
There is no report prepared for tonight’s meeting.
As you probably know, we have serious budget issues at SSA. Many of you have received the action email asking you to contact your elected representative; they’re prepared to cut our budget by $230 million next year. This would likely lead to furloughs lasting 3 days or more, FO closures, continued hiring freezes, and the elimination of awards, and no overtime except for emergencies. Also, the 41 million Americans who rely on us would have to wait longer for face to face service. However, if the President’s budget proposal were adopted, we would get a small increase and avoid furloughs. Congressional representative Mike Quigley introduced an amendment that would increase administrative funding for SSA in the federal budget. We need enough funding and staffing to keep our heads above water. Council 220, the part of AFGE that represents SSA field offices, is on Capitol Hill this week fighting for our jobs and our sanity.
Steve attended an SSA forum sponsored by the Social Security Advisory Board in Washington, DC. The chairman, Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institute, remarked that SSA staff has been cut by over 20,000 positions over the years and we now have fewer staff to help people with workloads higher than ever. The deficiencies in service delivery are not the fault of employees, but an inevitable result of not having enough staff. They discussed various changes that could be made to the SSI program and payment levels, and other SSA regulations, to streamline and reduce administrative workloads. Acting Commissioner Colvin also spoke at the forum; she’s expecting to leave her position at the end of the year. They also discussed the ABLE Act, which would allow SSI beneficiaries to have up to $100,000 in a special account to be used only for education, work training, etc. and would be excluded from resource limits. They also discussed HR 2442 and Senate Bill 1387, a Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act introduced in the Senate with a companion bill in the House, that would liberalize the program by raising the resource limit by applying an inflation adjustment (the last time it was increased was in 1989, to $2,000), up to $10,000 for individuals and $15,000 for couples. It would also eliminate ISM and raise unearned and earned income exclusions.
Congressman McDermott (WA) has introduced HR 5396: the Medicare, Dental, Hearing and Benefit Act of 2016. It would add dental, vision and hearing aid coverage to Medicare covered supplies and treatment. The Idaho Alliance for Retired Americans (IDARA) passed a resolution last month supporting this Act.
Ivan let us know that he will be retiring July 31, 2016 from the Kitsap FO. He will continue as Sergeant-at-Arms for the remainder of his term and will also continue to be active with AFGE.
SSA has created a Lead Customer Service Rep (CSR) position at GS-9 that is expected to come to FOs in the near future. They will also add some at teleservice centers (TSCs). AFGE has requested that the Agency create something like this for many years. The position would function like a TE for Service Reps. We also discussed expectations and working conditions for CSRs in TSCs, how they manage high-volume call times and how Lead CSRs would function in that environment.
Carrie made a motion that this evening’s LBM minutes be approved as written; Melanie seconded. Motion passed.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski, Secretary.