SSA Budget Cutbacks Impact Consumers Profoundly

Mark Miller at writes about the significant service cutbacks being made by Social Security,(SSA). It has responded to the tight budget by reducing employee overtime by 80 percent. That has cut into the amount of time available to help people who come into SSA local field offices for face-to-face services. The agency also lost about 1,600 workers last year who can’t be replaced due to a hiring freeze.

Another major concern is processing of Social Security disability claims, which have soared in recent years. Unlike retirement benefit applications – which are handled in near-automatic fashion – each disability application is reviewed for approval. The average time for processing claims had peaked at 532 days in 2008, but SSA had cut that back to 346 days as of September this year through increases in the capacity to hold hearings. In FY 2011, the agency issued nearly 800,000 hearing decisions, an increase of 45 percent.

But that figure could fall as much as 400,000 in fiscal 2012 even if agency funding is held steady, according to the union that represents SSA workers. In a recent letter to the Super Committee, the National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations Locals (part of the American Federation of Government Employees) outlined an array of negative impacts of budget cutting. Along with the threat to disability claims processing, the letter described potential further cutbacks in working hours and services.

What does it mean? Less face-to-face assistance for thousands of seniors, widows, disabled people and the poor — many of whom can’t easily resolve their benefit issues over the phone of the Internet. See full article here: