Social Security chief visits Bradenton office

MANATEE — Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue today joined U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in visiting the local Social Security office to discuss how best to make the program more efficient at a time of diminishing budgets.

Astrue praised Buchanan, R-Sarasota, for taking the time to learn how Social Security works, as a member of House Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with writing tax legislation and bills affecting Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs.

“It’s an enormous advantage,” The Social Security chief said, when members of House committees take the time to learn the process. “Because, particularly in these tight budget times, if you can’t handle more work with more funding, you have to figure out how to be more efficient,” Astrue said during an interview at the Bradenton Social Security office at 5540 S.R. 64 E.

“And Washington gets very stuck in its ways, so having members come out and say, ‘Look, we can change, we can be more efficient and serve the public better by doing these things’ if you understand what we’re trying to do, and why, it’s enormously helpful to us, and I wish that we could get even more members come out visiting their home offices,” Astrue said.

Buchanan said about 200,000 people are 65 and older, and almost 300,000 are 55 and older, in the district he represents.

Social Security is a federal program that provides monthly benefits to retirees, the disabled and others.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.