Why You’ll Be on Hold for Benefits: Social Security Staffing Cuts

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Social Security staffing cuts mean a more complicated claims process for you. But there are advocates fighting for your rights to Social Security benefits.

Early in 2014, President Obama announced that he would not include Social Security cuts to his budget proposal. The cuts would have lowered the cost-of-living for future Social Security retirees. Democrats praised the decisions, but it was unwelcome by Republicans.

However, Republicans have won the majority in the Senate, and they will now have control over Congress in January.

Budget cuts

From 2011 to 2013, Social Security funds have been $2.7 billion short of what the White House requested, according to a Senate Special Committee Aging Report. The budget cuts have caused significant reductions in the Social Security Administration staffing and operations.

Social Security advocates are now arranging a forum and marching Capitol Hill to protect SS benefits and request that staffing concerns be addressed. The forum was arranged by the Strengthen Social Security Coalition.

What does the Strengthen Social Security Coalition advocate?

The coalition consists of over 300 national and state organizations. It represents over 50 million Americans and stands by seven principles:

1) Social Security did not cause the federal deficit; its benefits should not be cut to reduce the deficit.

2) Social Security should not be privatized in whole or in part.

3) Social Security should not be means-tested.

4) Congress should act in the coming few years to close Social Security’s funding gap by requiring those who are most able to afford it to pay somewhat more.

5) Social Security’s retirement age, already scheduled to increase from 65 to 67, should not be raised further.

6) Social Security’s benefits should not be reduced, including by changes to the benefit formula.

7) Social Security’s benefits should be increased for those who are most disadvantaged.

The Coalition has pointed out that the reduced staffing has had a dramatic impact on service quality.

According to the National Council of Social Security Management Associations, the field-office staffing dropped 14 percent from 2011 to 2014.

What does this mean for me?

Longer office wait time. SSA applicants or beneficiaries would have to wait on average two hours before they would be seen, triple the waiting time of just a few months ago. Along with the wait time, hours at SSA offices have been reduced by a whole day.

Being on hold for longer. For visitors who decide to call in, the average wait time for the phone is 17 minutes. In 2012, the wait time was an average of five minutes.

Delayed benefits decision. In total, the administration lost a total of 12,000 employees. Among the employee cuts, there was also no budget to hire administrative law judges that would help move along the Social Security Appeals process. The appeals process has over 1 million cases pending an outcome. Without all the staff, the average wait time to receive a decision is well over a year.

Republicans are supporting a reduction of government, which includes a reduction to Social Security.

What should I do?

Consider hiring an attorney if you have been denied or have not yet started the Social Security benefits process.

Attorneys can expedite the process and help you reach a claim sooner. Here at Summit Disability Law, we will do our best to make sure you receive the benefits you deserve.

Sources: The Washington Post, Strengthen Social Security Coalition, PBS, CNNSenate Special Committee on Aging report.

Photo Credit: Jessie Owen via Creative Commons