Washington D.C. – The federal employees who handle appeals of Social Security disability claims would be better equipped to serve taxpayers if they had greater access to telework, rural broadband was expanded and the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness program was functioning properly, according to a statement NTEU submitted to Congress today.
The SSA Office of Hearing Operations, where 1,900 attorneys and paralegals are represented by the National Treasury Employees Union, has suffered in recent years because of insufficient resources, inadequate staffing and growing workloads.
The Senate Finance Committee conducted a hearing on how the pandemic has hampered SSA services, and NTEU National President Tony Reardon submitted a written statement focused on the OHO division.
Under maximum telework during the pandemic, OHO employees have reported an increase in productivity and increased job satisfaction.
“Expanded telework would improve employee productivity and retention as well as offering the potential savings from the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund by reducing the leasing costs of OHO Offices,” Reardon wrote. “The pandemic has proven this program works. The agency should take advantage of that.”
NTEU is also endorsing the administration’s proposal to expand rural broadband across the country. When the pandemic began, at least 50 OHO employees lacked broadband internet access in their rural communities, which hampered their ability to telework.
“Both workers and communities in rural America would benefit from more federal and private sector employees being free to work remotely in rural areas and we hope Congress will support the rapid expansion of rural broadband to help make this a reality,” Reardon wrote.
Finally, a properly functioning Public Service Loan Forgiveness program would stem the turnover and help attract the young legal talent OHO needs.
“Ensuring this program works for public servants is vital to recruiting and retaining qualified employees at OHO and across the federal government,” Reardon wrote.
NTEU represents employees in 34 federal agencies and offices.