The Social Security Administration is plagued by financial problems, and the recent budget cuts are not helping matters by any means. In April, Congress passed a budget cut that took approximately $1 billion dollars away from the amount that the Obama administration had requested for the Social Security Administration's budget. As a result of this significant cut in revenue, the Social Security Administration has been faced with a multitude of financial burdens and administrative setbacks.
One of the main goals of the Social Security Administration has been to reduce the backlog of Social Security Disability claims that have been backlogged in the system. A reduction in this backlog would result in faster processing times of both disability claims and disability appeals. Unfortunately, due to the budget cut that has been imposed on the Social Security Administration, the information technology projects and hiring of staff that would be needed to address this backlog of appeals have had to be put on hold.
The $1 billion budget cut also resulted in the SSA canceling its plans to open eight new disability hearing centers across the United States. These hearing centers would have made a significant impact on the backlog of Social Security Disability appeals, but it is impossible for these centers to be opened with the financial struggles that the SSA is currently facing.
The recent budget cuts have also shut down construction projects. The call center that was to be opened in Tennessee will not be opening anytime in the near future. In addition to stopping the production of new facilities, the $1 billion budget cut has resulted in the SSA closing hundreds of currently-established direct contact stations.
Unfortunately, the financial struggles of the SSA may result in even further setbacks. If the right choices aren't made, the Social Security Administration may be forced to furlough employees and shut down certain Social Security field offices permanently.
Why in the world would Congress allow such a budget cut, considering its significant impact on United States taxpayers? According to Senator Richard Shelby, the blows caused by the budget cut could have been avoided, had the SSA spent its funds more appropriately by streamlining the disability claim process and reducing administrative overhead. The Social Security Administration argues that the agency is one of the most efficient in the federal government.
What does the future hold for the SSA in light of these budget cuts and others that may be implemented further down the road? The National Council of Social Security Management Associations estimates that the SSA will lose 3,500 employees this year alone and will also need to enforce a hiring freeze. In 2012, another 4,000 employees are expected to be lost.
What does this mean for Social Security Disability applicants? The promises that we have been hearing of reductions in disability appeal times are now empty. If anything, appeals may take even longer than they have in the past as the backlog increases due to lack of staffing and insufficient hearing centers. While we may not see an apparent increase in the amount of time it takes to complete the initial disability claim process, those who have to undergo disability appeals may have to wait much longer as more appeals are backlogged and fewer employees are staffed to address the problem.