It has become clear that the SSA does not have enough funds to cover its administrative expenses, but that has not stopped the House and Senate from trying to squeeze even more money out of the allocation of funds for the SSA. The House’s plan is to keep the budget at the same level as the current year. The Senate wishes to cut its budget by nearly $400 million, or almost 4%.
For disability applicants, near-retirees, and retirees, the effects show up in deteriorating customer service. Long waits on the phone and in field offices have already taken their toll on people in need of assistance from the SSA.
For example, the SSA used to mail annual statements of earing records to all covered workers, but these have been eliminated since they say anyone can gain access to their records online. Of course, this only works if one has access to internet or is capable of navigating the Web.
The agency’s caseload has greatly expanded since 2010 by about 14% or 63.3 million retirees.
The sole area of long-term growth in the budget has been a separate appropriation for “integrity funding,” which is designed to erase waste, abuse, and fraud in the disability program. However, the level of improper payment is estimated at less than 1%, with underpayment a bigger problem than overpayment. Even worse is the SSD hearings backlog, which averages 626 days; these wait times are huge burdens on those unable to work and struggling to make ends meet as well as those who are terminally ill and may not live to see a final decision.