On June 3, 2022, a group of national advocates led by Community Legal Services in Philadelphia and Justice in Aging sent a letter to the Commissioner of Social Security, Kilolo Kijakazi, requesting that the Social Security Administration (SSA) meet with advocates to discuss the agency’s Equity Action Plan. The letter urged the agency to prioritize two key areas: improving access to the local field offices and eliminating barriers to service for people with limited English proficiency. The letter was signed by 35 organizations, including the Empire Justice Center, Legal Services NYC, New York Legal Assistance Group, and the Urban Justice Center.
As detailed in the last issue of this newsletter, SSA released its agency’s Equity Action Plan on April 14, 2022. The plan had been issued in response to an Executive Order (EO) 13985, signed on January 20, 2021, by President Biden, directing all federal agencies conduct an assessment of its programs and within one year provide a plan for advancing equity, including a plan to address barriers to enrollment in and access to benefits and services in its programs.
While there has been no direct response to the advocate sign-on letter, SSA held a “Stakeholder Engagement Meeting” on June 16, 2022, that was open to the public and at which the agency reviewed, in relatively broad strokes, some elements of the plan. Many legal services organizations submitted comments in response to a request for information issued last year by the Office of Management and Budget, and continue to hope for an opportunity to have a focused dialogue on improving equity, including those identified in the sign-on letter and in the comments submitted to OMB.