VIRGINIA - LO 051

 

On behalf of Walt Barrows, this is to advise you that starting in June 2016, U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) field offices around the country will be closed to the public on Wednesday afternoons (starting at 12:00 pm). However, they will remain open for their usual hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the remaining weekdays.

The change is being implemented after much consideration and is necessary due to reduced staffing levels coupled with increased workloads in several key areas.  After reviewing several options, including all-day closure of field offices one day per week, we decided upon half-day closure on Wednesdays as a way to address workload issues with the least disruption to the public. 

On Wednesdays, staff in our nationwide network of 53 field offices will focus on processing applications for benefits, conducting necessary verifications for pending applications or claims, resolving complex cases, and reducing backlogged workload categories.  It will also help expand staff access to training that is needed to maximize consistency and productivity among all offices.

During this time, the claims representatives in those offices will not conduct routine face-to-face interviews or meetings, nor will they answer the phone. However, persons who call on Wednesday afternoons will have the opportunity to leave a voicemail message, which will be returned as soon as possible.

I should point out that the agency has lost 17 employees in the field since October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. Most of the departures have been retirements, as the RRB, like most other Federal agencies, has a significant number of long-term employees eligible for retirement. Almost half of our workforce will be eligible to retire within the next 5 years, and while we have been filling vacancies in the field, these positions have a longer break-in and training period before reaching full productivity, due to the complexity and variety of work they must perform.

In terms of workloads, the number of inquiries received by the field regarding unemployment and sickness benefits during the first four months of the fiscal year was almost equal to the number taken during the entire previous year. And telephone calls to field offices were up by 61,000 during that same period.

This is a significant change and I wanted to alert you so that you and your membership can be informed.  A formal press release that can be used on your websites and in your publications will follow.  Thank you for your understanding and support in this matter.  We will continue to monitor staffing levels and workloads, and make any adjustments to public hours should circumstances improve. 

Sincerely,

Michele Neuendorf

Office of the Labor Member

US Railroad Retirement Board

844 N. Rush Street

Chicago, IL 60625

312-751-4973

312-515-8375 cell

Michele.Neuendorf@rrb.gov