Worries continue to circulate on the potential closing of the Storm Lake Social Security office and others like it around the state.
On Tuesday, officials of the union that represents many of the Social Security workers called on Iowans to protest to their members of Congress.
Officers of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 836 said that a Social Security Administration downsizing initiative and increased use of online services would be "a mistake that will compromise the quality and efficiency of service."
Currently, there are 21 Social Security field offices in Iowa. Storm Lake is one of the smallest, and the fact that much of its staff is eligible for retirement this year could make the office ripe for closing, local office personnel feel.
Regional Social Security management, however, when contacted by the Pilot-Tribune recently, said that while evaluation of efficiency in serving the public is constantly taking place, no decision to close the Storm Lake office has not been made.
If it were, he said, the public and Iowa Congressional Representatives would be given advance notice.
The nearest office is in Spencer.
The SSA facility in Oskaloosa is slated to be closed on February 1, although Senator Tom Harkin has spoken to Commissioner Michael Astrue opposing any office closures in his state.
"The Commissioner has said that offices with 15 or fewer employees could be shutdown, and most of the offices in Iowa currently have fewer employees than that," said Cheryl Hainkel, the Kansas City Regional Vice President of Council 220.
If the agency approves additional shutdowns in Iowa, there could be just five remaining locations for the entire state, the union claims: Davenport, Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and Council Bluffs.
"An individual would have to travel up to two-and-a half hours (153 miles) in order to reach their nearest Social Security office," Hainkel said.
The union official alleges that loss of personnel has been caused by SSA's refusal to hire additional employees after others have retired. "The agency expects electronic services to ease the loss of employees. This agency should not be downsizing at a time when more and more individuals will be applying for benefits and services," Hainkel said.
The local manager of the Storm Lake office is also concerned about the future, feeling that not all senior citizens would be comfortable in using electronic communications or be able to drive long distances to meet with Social Security staff.