Legislative Update for Week Ending August 5, 2016

Legislative Update for Week Ending August 5, 2016

This week, the Social Security Administration implemented an online security policy that unexpectedly locked many beneficiaries out of their online accounts. In addition, lawmakers in Congress continued their seven-week summer recess.

SSA Implements New Security Policy

On Monday, an executive order from President Obama went into effect requiring all federal agencies – including the Social Security Administration (SSA) – to add an additional security measure to all online accounts that contain sensitive personal information. Under the new policy, Social Security beneficiaries must provide a text-enabled cellphone number when logging in to their online accounts. The two-step authorization process requires them to enter a temporary security code sent to them via text message before they can access their online information.

Several unintended consequences have already resulted from the implementation of the new security policy. On Monday, customers of Verizon Wireless – the nation’s largest wireless carrier – were unable to access their online accounts due to technical difficulties. In addition, those without access to text-enabled cellphones and those residing in areas with unreliable cellphone service found themselves locked out of their online accounts.

Jessie Gibbons – TSCL’s senior policy analyst – told Karen Damato of Money, “We’re concerned that the abrupt change will cause a lot of confusion and frustration among older Americans, many of whom don’t have reliable access to text-enabled cellphones.” In addition, Mary Johnson – a policy consultant for The Senior Citizens League – told Mary Beth Franklin of InvestmentNews, “Based on what we know at the moment, the alternative to checking online is either calling SSA’s 1-800-772-1213 line, or trekking out to a local Social Security office where you take a number and wait in line.” She also said, “The Senior Citizens League feels that online security is vital, but feels alternate options should be offered.”

TSCL is hopeful that SSA will add additional options for authentication quickly so that Social Security beneficiaries without cellphones can regain access to their online accounts. Congressman Sam Johnson (TX-3) – Chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee – sent a letter to SSA’s Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin on Tuesday requesting swift action. He wrote, “I urge you to take a hard look at this new policy and make the changes necessary to ensure that mySocialSecurity has the right balance between security and access.”

In the weeks ahead, TSCL will keep a close eye on the issue, and we will advocate for solutions that will improve access without jeopardizing online security. For progress updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website or follow us on Twitter.

Summer Congressional Recess Continues

Members of Congress remained in their home states and districts to continue the summer recess this week. They are expected to return to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, September 6th. In the meantime, most Members of Congress will be holding town hall meetings in their home states and districts, presenting constituents with excellent opportunities to have their most pressing questions answered. TSCL encourages its members and supporters to attend these events and to voice their concerns about important Social Security and Medicare issues like inadequate cost-of-living adjustments and skyrocketing prescription drug prices.

The following Members of Congress, among many others, will be holding town hall meetings this week: Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA), Sen. Michael Crapo (ID), Sen. Jerry Moran (KS), Sen. Pat Roberts (KS), Rep. Garret Graves (LA-6), Rep. Jody Hice (GA-10), Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8), Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23), Rep. Diane Black (TN-6), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-1), Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND), Rep. Raul Labrador (ID-1), Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH-3), Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY-2), Rep. Thomas Massie (KY-4), Rep. Tom Rice (SC-7), Rep. Mimi Walters (CA-45), Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-4), Rep. Tom Emmer (MN-6), Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-4), Rep. Mark Amodei (NV-2), Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-9), and Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-9).

For details, or to see if your Members of Congress will be holding town hall meetings during the summer recess, call their local offices. You can find contact information HERE.