BENSONHURST — A trio of Democratic lawmakers popped in on the Saint Frances Cabrini Senior Club in Bensonhurst in the middle of a Bingo game, but they weren’t there to call numbers.
U.S. Rep. Max Rose, Assemblymember Peter Abbate and Councilmember Justin Brannan said that while they always enjoy meeting with their older constituents, they came to the senior citizen club on Aug. 21 to assure members that they were aware of complaints about slow service at the Social Security Administration and were working to fix it.
“When you go to the Social Security office, see how long the lines are?” Rose asked the group of approximately 50 senior citizens seated at tables set up inside St Frances Cabrini Catholic Church at 35 Bay 11th St. “See how long it takes them to pick up the phone?” he asked.
As if slow service wasn’t bad enough, Rose said that the SSA has consolidated or closed more than 120 of its field offices around the country in recent years without supplying Congress sufficient justification.
There is a Social Security office at 7714 17th Ave. in Bensonhurst that was closed for several months and has since reopened.
Some of the problems at the SSA stem from the fact that the agency needs additional funding, Rose said. Rose and a bipartisan group of House members are calling on Congress to fund the SSA fully to improve customer service and ensure that Americans receive the benefits they’ve earned.
“Social Security isn’t a giveaway or free entitlement. It’s a promise that everyone has paid into and our senior citizens are counting on for retirement. But when the Social Security Administration is cut and short staffed, it’s seniors who pay the price,” said Rose in a later statement.
Rose, who regularly deals with SSA issues on behalf of constituents in his Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island district, said he has recovered nearly $200,000 in monies owed to residents.
Rose is a co-sponsor of the Social Security Accountability Act, a bill that would require the SSA to submit an annual report to Congress with statistics for each hearing office, including the number of cases pending, the rate at which case backlogs are increasing or decreasing, and the average length of time it takes for claims to be processed.
The bill would also require SSA to hold a public hearing in a community where the agency is considering closing a field office.
Senior citizens deserve the best service, whether it’s Social Security or dealing with other issues, said Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst.
“You guys have done so much to build this city and this country,” Brannan told the club members.
Abbate is a regular visitor to local senior centers in his Bensonhurst-Sunset Park district, where he offers updates to older adults about pending state legislation. Abbate also sponsors an annual picnic at the Fort Hamilton Army Base for senior citizens.
Vincenza Pennisi, who comes to the St. Frances Cabrini club every week, said she was happy to see the local lawmakers. “It’s good to know they’re looking out for us,” she told the Home Reporter.
John Shallman, New York regional communications director for SSA, said the agency had no comment on the statements by Rose about slow service or the pending legislation.