NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SECURITY MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATIONS
National Council of
Social Security Management Associations
My Day in D.C.
Monday, August 14, 2017
In early June, I was honored to represent the National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA) during a visit to Capitol Hill. As chair of the Dallas Region Management Association (DRMA) Legislative Issues and Grassroots Committee, I was familiar with some of the legislative and political aspects of our agency. However, this trip was definitely outside my normal scope of duties.
The group traveling to Capitol Hill consisted of five managers from across the country. Each of our offices represented a different socioeconomic and geographic region. NCSSMA’s Washington Representative, Rachel Emmons, accompanied us on our visit and facilitated our meetings that day.
We started the day off early with an hour-long train ride into D.C. We met Rachel at Union Station and prepped for our first meeting with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Our meeting with OMB was informative and eye opening. Prior to the meeting, we provided OMB with an outline of the agency’s budget needs. This served as the talking points for our discussion. During the discussion, they were very candid about our agency’s budget. The Social Security Administration (SSA) fared much better than most other agencies in this environment. Most have proposed cuts; some of which are significant.
Our meeting with OMB was the only meeting we had with a federal agency that day. The rest of the day was spent with lawmakers and their staff. We had meetings with Appropriations Committee staff members from both political parties. While each group we met with had different subject matter they wished to discuss, we kept coming across a similar topic in every meeting: systems issues.
Each lawmaker and staff member asked for feedback on the impact of the agency’s systems issues. Each member of our group gave a local account of how all the current systems issues affect day-to-day operations. The thing I found most interesting in these meetings was the level of concern lawmakers expressed about our systems issues. They asked a number of follow-up questions trying to gain a deeper understanding of what we were facing. It was clear that there is a united effort by lawmakers and SSA to address our aging systems infrastructure. Coming from the field and seeing it every day, it was reassuring to hear that people are actively working to solve the problems we face.
We ended our last meeting around 6 p.m. and went to dinner before boarding the train back to Baltimore. Over dinner, the team discussed the meetings and moving forward with action items from the day.
From this whirlwind day on Capitol Hill, I learned several things:
1) NCSSMA has amazing leadership! Our NCSSMA Executive Council does a lot more behind the scenes than I realized. The hours spent in communication and planning is hard to measure. Every member has a role and executes it flawlessly. I am proud and humbled to serve with such a group of leaders.
2) Congress knows our programs! Our lawmakers have a greater understanding of what we do than I realized. Everyone has a stake in SSA. Whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent, SSA touches everyone’s life. Seeing our lawmakers able to quote policy and show an overall understanding of the agency was impressive. It also further demonstrated their commitment to what we do.
3) We have support! Everyone we spoke with asked how they could help. They understand the importance of what we do to serve the American public. It was reassuring to hear the steps and actions taken each day to ensure we have the funding, systems, and other resources we need.
As I reflect on the trip, I am still amazed at the size and scope of the agency. In field operations, I think we sometimes feel as if we are alone and that we don’t always receive the support we need. The opportunity I had to spend a day on Capitol Hill broadened my perspective. It gave me a small glimpse of the thousands of people who support what we do each day. We are not an island; we are a team. Each part of the team, while not always visible, has its own role and contributes to the overall success of the agency.
Joe Deaton, District Manager, Hot Springs, Arkansas
DRMA Executive Officer and Legislative Issues and Grassroots Committee Chair