Hours Cut, Not Service

The Social Security Administration says congressional budget cuts will lead to reduced public hours beginning August 15.  Officials say the cuts will not affect benefits that retirees depend on.

As lawmakers grapple with the still unresolved dilemma of the debt ceiling, $111 billion dollars will be trimmed from the $3.6 trillion dollar federal budget.  It carves out exceptions for veterans benefits, defense, security, Medicare and Social Security.  Andrew Hardwick with the Social Security Office in Houston says offices across the nation will be affected by the reduction in hours.

"Service time is from 9am to 4pm, we'll now be closing at 3:30.  That's to avoid having to pay our employees overtime.  As you know, Social Security suffered in the 2011 budget a $1 billion dollar cut.  So we are like everybody else, we're scrambling trying to save money.  We're not trying to lessen our service to the public, we're just trying to operate in a more efficient manner."

Hardwick says the reduction has never happened in his 30-plus years of working for Social Security.

"A lot has changed in the past couple of months, and it is due to this $1 billion dollar budget cut that we had for 2011 and frankly, 2012 I don't think it looks any better.  I think it's gonna be more severe so, we're gonna be looking for ways that we can spend the public's money more wisely, like everybody else in the government."

Hardwick says just like everybody else, people dealing with the Social Security Office can do so online, with one exception.

"For the Social Security card replacement, we don't have that available online.  So for that, you generally have to come into the office, unless you want to send your documents through the mail which, original documents, which I don't recommend."

Congressman Kevin Brady from the Woodlands says we have to do more with less.

"Like the rest of the government.  That's why the House passed the largest cuts ever, in House office budgets for next year.  The House did the same for many offices, to make sure that we cut hundreds of millions of dollars from our offices, from the committee budgets, and from the senate offices as well."

Brady agrees with other lawmakers who say savings could be found in bureaucracy.  Houston collegeaue and Congressman Gene Green says the savings will come without touching Medicare and Social Security.

"I have a real problem with changing Social Security because Social Security is not part of our debt problem.  It's a trust fund.  In fact, the only issue is, is that the federal government owes the Social Security trust fund about $3 trillion dollars. And of course we owe around the world about $14 trillion, but of $3 trillion of that, is Social Security.  So, I want to make sure that money goes back into that fund when we need it."

All that information can be found at www.socialsecurity.gov, or by dialing the agency's toll-free number at 800.772.1213.

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...