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In a letter sent to leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives Wednesday, AARP urged Congress to increase funding for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help the agency address its many service logjams.
Congress is considering an appropriations bill to keep the federal government operating beyond March 23. The legislation includes a proposed cut of $400 million from SSA’s budget for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
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Decreasing SSA’s budget would only exacerbate its operational problems. “Chronic underfunding has been seriously compromising the ability of many agencies to fulfill their responsibilities,” wrote AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond. “Years of underfunding have resulted in a historically large backlog of hearings and claims and inexcusably lengthy wait times for appointments and calls.”
AARP projects that even without the proposed budget cuts, the typical wait for service when calling SSA’s toll-free number will increase from 16.2 minutes last year to 20.8 minutes this year. The analysis also found that the wait time for a hearing decision in 2018 will be 600 days, a slight decrease from 605 days last year, but still more than twice as long as the SSA’s goal of 270 days.
“Shortchanging SSA operations further compromises the ability of the agency to protect program integrity, and in turn, undermines the fiscal soundness of the Old Age and Disability trust funds,” says LeaMond. “Budget cuts have already resulted in a significant reduction in field office staff, reduced office hours, and curtailed issuance of annual Social Security statements.”
With nearly 10,000 boomers retiring each day, the demands for help in navigating the Social Security benefits process are likely to increase. “We believe that our federal budget must reflect a commonsense approach to our nation’s current and future health and economic security needs,” LeaMond says.