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By Scott B. Elkind, Esq.

The Social Security Administration submitted its Annual Report to Congress and has announced the following:

  • The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2020 at which time program expenditures will exceed reserves
  • Depletion of reserves is projected for 2033 (the same year as projected last year) at which time benefits would automatically be cut to 77% of the customary schedule
  • 2012 combined Trust Fund expenditures were $775B to 57M beneficiaries
  • Non-interest income fell below program costs in 2010 for the first time since 1983 and are continuing
  • Asset reserves increased by $54B in 2012
  • Cost for the administration of the program were only 0.8% of total expenditures

Recent testimony before Congress by Acting SSA Commissioner, Carolyn W. Colvin, was not as rosy and included:

  • The administration is under continuing stress and is unable to maintain the level of services for administration of programs due to budget cuts
  • Dwindling resources have resulted in fewer employees to serve the public despite increasing daily visitors at local offices
  • They are faced with the high employee attrition rate (up to 10% in some offices)
  • Employees have been faced with a 20% increase in threats
  • Insufficient resources may lead to further reductions in office hours, deferred workloads, and other cost-saving measures which will delay services
  • The Administration has struggled to work the last two years with a budget that is $1B less than what the President has requested
  • Current service deterioration includes longer waiting times at field offices (which has tripled over the last 4 months alone), increased busy signals on 1-800 line (now 15% which is up from 4.6% in 2010)
  • Cost-saving measures enacted include consolidation of 41 field offices and closure of 490 contact stations since 2010, opening 8 new hearing offices, reduction of open public hours of field offices, reduced travel, elimination of $54M in unnecessary spending since 2010, and reduced agency-sponsored conferences
  • Even if slightly higher funding is received, there will be insufficient funds to hire enough new employees to replace those lost through attrition
  • Signed an agreement with the Department of Labor to allow collection of detailed occupational information to support a new Occupational Information System to replace the outdated Dictionary of Occupational Titles
  • Budget cutbacks have resulted in an increase in the case backlog, incresing from 340 days in 2011 to 382 days in 2012
  • Continuing shortage of administrative law judges with doubling the staff of senior ALJs to stem hiring shortage
  • Significant increases in Federal District Court filings (7.7% increase since 2011 and 18% increase since 2010) to appeal disability denials
  • Unable to meet objective of conducting continuing disability reviews in 569,000 cases (only completing 443,000)

Scott Elkind is an attorney in Silver Spring, MD whose practice focuses on disability issues. He can reached at 301-495-6665.

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