Senior Policy Analyst
The bipartisan agreement to raise the caps on discretionary spending in 2018 and 2019 reportedly calls for higher funding for the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) operating budget, which is starved for resources after years of cuts, to improve customer service. SSA’s budget shrank by 11 percent between 2010 and 2017, after adjusting for inflation — even as SSA’s workload grew as baby boomers reached their peak years for retirement and disability. When lawmakers write agency funding bills based on the agreement, they need to fulfill their commitment and provide SSA with a significant increase to undo the damage from those cuts.
One consequence of the cuts is that over 1 million people await a final decision on their application for Social Security Disability Insurance — after paying into Social Security their entire career — or their application for Supplemental Security Income disability benefits. They wait an average of nearly two years for decisions on their appeals, a record delay.
The workers affected by the SSA backlog, who have appealed SSA’s rejection of their initial disability application, come from all walks of life and all over the country, from small-town Minnesota to New York City:
The harm from persistent underfunding of SSA extends beyond backlogged applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance. As workloads and costs grow and budgets shrink, SSA’s service has worsened by nearly every measure, from serving clients in SSA field offices to answering phone calls. The new budget agreement offers an opportunity to increase SSA’s operating budget and reverse some of this damage.