Senior Policy Analyst
The 2016 Labor-HHS-Education bill that the House Appropriations Committee is considering today would continue to force the Social Security Administration (SSA) — whose work touches nearly every American’s life — to do more with less.
The 2011 Budget Control Act’s (BCA) tight funding caps, further reduced by sequestration, are squeezing Social Security. SSA’s “core,” or regular, administrative funding has fallen by over 10 percent since 2010 after adjusting for inflation, despite rising workloads as baby boomers retire. (See graph.) The 2016 House bill freezes funding at this year’s levels, failing to account for either inflation or rising workloads. (Along with core funding, appropriation bills can provide extra funds exclusively for program integrity work, a special adjustment that lies outside the BCA caps, but the bill doesn’t take full advantage of this option, providing only some of what’s allowable.)
SSA is widely viewed as well managed. It provides benefits to nearly 60 million retirees, disabled workers, dependents, and survivors, and a smaller number of Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries, and it responds to millions of inquiries from beneficiaries, workers, and employers. The demands on SSA have risen, particularly as baby boomers have aged into their peak years for disability and retirement; between 2010 and 2015, the number of beneficiaries rose by about 13 percent. Yet Congress keeps asking SSA to do more with less, in terms of both funding and staff. Since 2010, SSA has lost over 6,000 employees, nearly 10 percent of its staff. As a result, SSA’s service is suffering:
In sharp contrast to the House bill, the President proposes to increase the SSA budget by over $600 million, a 6 percent increase — enough to cover inflation and restore some of the ground lost since 2010. To make room for the funding increase, the President’s budget provides sequestration relief, offset with alternative savings. Congress should agree to provide sequestration relief, which would allow additional funding for essential services such as those the SSA provides.