National Committee President Max Richtman joined advocates and elected representatives on Capitol Hill today to demand that Congress adequately fund the Social Security Administration (SSA). Richtman, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bob Casey (D-PA) railed against Republican plans to cut nearly $500 million from the Social Security Administration’s operating budget in the upcoming government funding bill.
The agency has been woefully underfunded since 2011 and Social Security claimants have been paying the price in the form of reduced service and long wait times. Social Security’s core operating budget shrank by 11 percent from 2010 to 2017 in inflation-adjusted terms. This occurred even as 10,000 baby boomers a day reach retirement age. Congress has the ability to solve this problem, but has not signaled a willingness to do so.
The House-approved FY 2018 appropriations legislation would continue underfunding the agency, freezing SSA’s operating funds for another year. The Senate Appropriations Committee has proposed an even more painful reduction of $460 million, nearly 4 percent of the operating budget.
At today’s event on Capitol Hill, Max Richtman highlighted the costs of SSA budget cuts to applicants and claimants:
“The result of this neglect is obvious. When workloads increase, and funding is cut, service suffers – big time. The money to adequately fund the administration of Social Security is there. But the collective conscience of Congressional leaders is absent. Time and again, they have knowingly cut the number of lifelines available to workers, retirees, the disabled and their families.” – Max Richtman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, 1/18/18
In fact, some 10,000 disabled Americans died last year waiting for a Social Security disability hearing. That shameful figure alone should be a compelling enough argument for restoring SSA’s funding to adequate levels. Budget cuts have forced SSA to close more than 60 field offices across the country, reducing in-person access to services. The average wait time on SSA’s toll-free number is 18 minutes. The average national wait time for a disability hearing exceeded 600 days in 2017. Ironically, these service cuts come at a time when 10,000 Baby Boomers become eligible for Social Security every day.
“The enemies of Social Security in Congress are making a very bad situation even worse (by proposing cuts to SSA’s operating budget.) They want to make it impossible to effectively administer the program, and ultimately want to destroy Social Security.” – Senator Bernie Sanders, 1/18/18
“America made a promise to Social Security beneficiaries. America must honor its promise and that means no cuts to the Social Security Administration. We must make sure that seniors, the disabled, and survivors of beneficiaries receive the benefits they are entitled to.” – Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), 1/18/18
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) decried the majority party’s “maniacal obsession” with cutting costs “in the most pernicious way,” making it harder for the Social Security Administration to carry out its mission.
SSA is funded through workers’ Social Security payroll contributions and not from general revenue. The agency is one of the most efficient in the entire federal government, spending less than 1% of its revenue on administrative costs. Congress is wrong to leave the agency so grossly underfunded, but some lawmakers may have a hidden agenda in letting SSA languish.
“Starving the Social Security Administration’s administrative funding is not only pennywise and pound foolish, it also amounts to a backdoor way to dismantle Social Security by eroding the public’s confidence in the program.” – Max Richtman, 1/18/18
It is not outrageous to suggest that the budget-induced aggravation and delay confronting claimants would, indeed, undercut public support for Social Security, smoothing the way for actual benefit cuts later.
The retired, disabled and survivor constituents of members of Congress deserve better. That’s why the National Committee urges Congress to reject the Senate Appropriations Committee’s $460 million cut and instead increase Social Security’s operating budget so it can do its job for the American people: a job they deserve, and as it happens, a job for which they have pre-paid.