December 04, 2018

Social Security Workers and Retirees Struggle with Enormous Backlog due to Years of Underfunding

The Alliance is calling on all members of Congress to support the Maintain Access to Vital Social Security Services Act (H.R. 7146) introduced by Rep. Gwen Moore last week. The bill would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to hold at least two public meetings and release a written report justifying the closure of any SSA field offices.

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Since 2000, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has closed 125 field offices. Shutdowns became more frequent between 2010 and the present, with more than half of all closures happening during that time. Lawmakers also reduced SSA’s operating budget by 11 percent and staffing by 10 percent between 2010 and 2017, despite the agency’s increasingly high workload.

As a result, beneficiaries encounter long wait times when seeking help at field offices and long hold times when calling Social Security’s 800 number. People applying for disability insurance often go through extensive waiting periods before their case is approved or denied. The average wait time for a disability hearing is 600 days. Many go bankrupt, become more sick and frail, or die before their applications are even processed fully.    

“Given the incredible difficulties that beneficiaries and employees face, it’s clear that we must dramatically increase funding for Social Security,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance. “The fact that lawmakers have made it harder for seniors to access the benefits that they earned over a lifetime of hard work is unconscionable.”

The Alliance has continued to take steps to stop this underfunding and protect benefits for current and future generations. Members have participated in several Social Security-related events this year, including rallies to protest the closures of field offices in Arlington and Baltimore.

Members also adopted two Social Security-related resolutions at our membership meeting. One of them aims to put a moratorium on field office closings and SSA cuts, set funding for administrative expenses at 1.5 percent of benefits, and expand resources and staffing.

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