WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees today submitted testimony to the Senate Appropriations Labor HHS Subcommittee on Social Security Administration budgets for Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. “During the past three years, with increased staffing and funding, we have substantially reduced disability hearing backlogs and processing times, and turned more of our attention to long-neglected program integrity workloads,” wrote Witold Skwierczynski, president of AFGE National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals. “However, working without a budget for the past five months, we have been struggling to keep up with rapidly growing requests for face-to-face and telephone service, and we could easily slip back. We are constrained by continuing resolutions that have been funding SSA operations at Fiscal Year 2010 levels, with a freeze on hiring in most parts of the agency. Our clients are having more difficulty accessing service, waiting times are increasing, and backlogs have developed in initial disability benefit applications.”
Currently, SSA administrative expenses are ‘on budget,’ which means that Congress decides on a yearly basis the amount that will be authorized and appropriated to administer SSA programs. Often SSA is left with insufficient staff and limited overtime due to a combination of competing interests within the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriation and the Congressional budget scoring system. “These circumstances make it next to impossible to appropriate adequate administrative funds to enable SSA to complete the tasks assigned by Congress in a timely manner. Such shortages adversely affect disability appeals processing time and cause severe integrity problems,” wrote Skwierczynski.
“Without sufficient funding of Social Security, the administrative expenses will not go far enough to put the agency on a clear path to provide its mandated services at a level expected by the American public. SSA must receive enough funding to make disability decisions in a timely manner and to carry out other critical workloads. The size of SSA’s administrative expenses is driven by the number of administrative functions it conducts to serve beneficiaries and applicants. AFGE strongly urges Congress to remove SSA’s administrative functions from the discretionary budget that supports other important programs,” concluded Skwierczynski.