February 10, 2009
Christina Erling
(202) 639-6419

GAO Report Says Understaffing Major Issue at Social Security Administration

WASHINGTON – A new GAO report confirms what the American Federation of Government Employees has been saying all along – that the Social Security Administration won’t be able to handle the influx of baby boomer claims unless it receives full funding. The GAO report says that staffing and funding constraints currently are having adverse affects on field office services and it is not clear how the agency’s push to expand the use of electronic services will mitigate the enormous backlog of disability hearings, the more than one hour wait period at field offices and the unanswered customer calls at offices across the country.

“The agency basically has been starved of funding,” said Witold Skwierczynski, president of AFGE’s Social Security Council. “And the unfortunate victims are the American public who rely on SSA to provide them and their families with retirement, disability and survivor’s benefit security.”

AFGE has testified before Congress that staffing levels have become much too low at SSA, which has affected all work the agency is required to accomplish. “Understaffing and underbudgeting, as well as agency’s drive to have the American public file their claims over the Internet, have created a dire situation at the Social Security Administration,” said Skwierczynski.

The Social Security Administration has pushed the public to file claims over the Internet, while eliminating employee review of all Internet applications and eliminating proof of age, proof of citizenship and lag wage development. “Commissioner Astrue has implemented policy and regulation changes that cheat retiring tax payers and/or their families out of benefits due to them. By eliminating employee follow up, as well as proof points in the internet claims process, the risk of fraud and beneficiary underpayments and overpayments exponentially increases,” explained Skwierczynski. “Mr. Astrue repeatedly has refused to meet with the employee representatives to discuss viable solutions to the problems in Internet claims and the serious disability backlog.”

“The findings in the GAO report gives further proof that Commissioner Astrue needs to step down and that the Social Security Administration needs a new direction,” concluded Skwierczynski. “Social Security employees look forward to being able to deliver quality service in the future while having the ability, funding and staffing to manage America’s growing demands.”

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