Tester Pushes Back Against Social Security's Discriminatory Policy

Agency will reconsider new online feature after hearing concerns from Montana seniors

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced this week that it will reconsider its new online sign-in feature, after Senator Jon Tester contacted the agency to voice a number of concerns. Earlier this month, the SSA rolled out a new way for users to sign into their accounts online. This involved not only entering a username and password, but an additional security code that would be texted the user’s cellphone.

“I applaud SSA’s efforts to enhance authentication procedures to ensure that SSA beneficiaries have the highest level of online security,” Tester wrote. “At the same time, it is important that these added layers of security don’t get in the way of Americans accessing their accounts.”

Tester noted that many seniors, particularly in Montana, either don’t have texting-capable cell phones or simply aren’t familiar with the process of texting. There are also many parts of Montana that don’t have reliable access to cellphone service, making texting difficult or impossible for residents.

“While I am pleased that the SSA heard our concerns and acted, it should serve as a reminder that federal agencies should take into account life in rural America before acting,” Tester said. “Montana seniors have worked hard and paid into Social Security, they shouldn’t have to jump through a series of complicated hoops just to manage their accounts.”

Montana seniors are applauding Tester’s efforts to ensure they have access to the resources they need.

“I think it was absolutely the right move,” Lois Katz said, Chair of the Council on Aging Advisory Council. “I think texting is difficult for many seniors-they either don’t have the technology or don’t understand it. So making texting a mandatory part of signing into your social security account online was borderline discriminatory against seniors. It would have really prevented a large number of people from accessing this very important service.”

Tester’s full letter to Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the SSA, is available HERE.