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Morelle addresses local complaints about Social Security

Feb 18, 2020

Kathleen Leahy, left, and Rep. Joe Morelle discuss Social Security on Tuesday at the Federal Building in downtown Rochester.
Credit James Brown / WXXI News

Congressman Joe Morelle says one-fifth of the constituent calls to his office are complaints about the Social Security program.

Among those who called Morelle’s office last year is Kathleen Leahy. She’s a retired teacher from Long Island who moved to Rochester to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. When Leahy’s husband died last fall, she had to file for death benefits from the Social Security Administration. 

“I had to go to 100 Chestnut Street, which was stated on the website, and I parked the car and trudged over in the snow -- and that was not the Social Security office,” said Leahy. “Had anyone else gone to 100 Chestnut Street, with a wheelchair or a walker or on crutches or a broken leg, it would have been devastating for them. I was lucky I could run over to the other building.”

The office had moved to 200 E. Main St. a few months earlier. Social Security has since updated its site, but Leahy’s complaint is one of many that Morelle’s office has received. The office has fielded 120 complaints about Social Security, mainly about inadequate customer service or inaccurate or contradictory information, including requiring redundant physical exams, incorrectly withholding over a half-million dollars of benefits, and confusing letters about benefits.

“Obviously I’ve been in office before at the state level and you’d get a variety of constituent matters, but I’ve never seen where one category of claims becomes this large a part of your caseload,” said Morelle. “There’s systemic issues that need to be addressed.”

Morelle sent a letter to the commissioner and inspector general of the Social Security Administration on Monday detailing these complaints. He wants changes in their customer service and has not ruled out trying to push for legislative action.