Walsh hears community concerns on Social Security, Medicare


MISSOULA, Mont. - Sen. John Walsh's listening tour on Social Security and Medicare took him to Lewistown, Great Falls and Missoula.

The senator began the tour in the Garden City, where he packed a roundtable filled with representatives from AARP, Missoula Aging Services, the Food Bank and the Senior Center, to name just a few.

Walsh reminded everybody at the round table that Social Security is 79 years old this week.

"There's a big push in Washington to try to cut these programs," said Walsh, "and to shift costs onto the backs of seniors. That's something I will not support."

Representatives at the table criticized a move to change Social Security's delivery system by 2025.

With Vision 2025, American Federal Government Employees' Pat Collins told us Social Security field offices would close and clients would apply for both retirement and disability benefits exclusively on the internet.

"The American people deserve a delivery system where they can access trained professionals to help them in their Social Security needs," said Collins.

He said 80-some field offices have already closed around the country. So far, all eight of Montana's Social Security field offices remain open.

Mary Olson spent close to 30 years working for Social Security. She told Walsh to navigate the complex regulations, applicants for benefits need the option of one-on-one help -- face or telephone time with a real person.

Olson said it's too complex to move everything onto the internet.

"Without a good explanation of the alternatives and the options, a person can really make mistakes," said Olson, and lose benefits.

Walsh heard stories of seniors losing benefits because of the system's failure.