Castor Opens New Social Security Office
Jun 25, 2010 -
ST. PETERSBURG – Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Social Security Administrator Michael Astrue today officially opened a new Social Security hearing office in St. Petersburg, which brings 65 new jobs to the area. Castor has long advocated for improved Social Security time frames to serve families in the Tampa Bay area.
“Social Security is a fundamental promise to each and every American that no matter what happens in their lives, they will have security and stability,” Castor said. “With the addition of the new jobs, several new administrative law judges and a larger support staff to process claims, I am hopeful the Social Security Administration will be able to further reduce wait times in the Tampa Bay region. That would mean thousands of Floridians would get their cases resolved sooner so they can rely on the benefits they are entitled to.”
Castor, upset by the frustrations of Floridians who have had to wait a year or more to have their cases heard, has been working to reduce the Social Security benefit backlog. While disabled Floridians wait for hearings, they lack the vital financial support they need, making it hard to afford food, mortgages and medicines. Some have even died waiting for their cases to be heard.
“Social Security benefits belong to them and barriers to access must be removed,” Castor said.
Castor has filed legislation to set a deadline for appeal hearings. The Timely Due Process for the Disabled Act – which has more than 90 co-sponsors – would require the Social Security Administration to set a hearing date within five days of receiving an appeal. The hearing must be held within 15 days after a 60-day window closes for claimants to prepare. A final verdict would be required 15 days later.
Castor pressured the Social Security Administration to tackle the backlog. The national average wait time is about 440 days. The wait time is even longer in the Tampa office, where the average wait time has been 482 days. The pressure paid off.
The St. Petersburg office is the state’s sixth hearing office and will help reduce the backlog of cases awaiting a hearing. The Social Security Administration has been hiring additional administrative law judges and support staff and has reduced cut wait times. After decades of cuts to the Social Security Administration under the Bush Administration, Congress has provided resources to improve and strengthen Social Security benefits and claims processing.
“Fortunately, the Social Security Administration has listened to me and my neighbors and is at last working with us to reduce wait times,” Castor said. “I am encouraged by all that has been done so far, but I know the Administration can do more. I will continue to support the Congress’s and the Administration’s work to direct more resources to our community, and I am counting on the Administration to spend those resources wisely.”