Social Security head says House cuts would delay benefits

“Under the House plan, the Social Security Administration would have to cut its staff by 3,500 by the end of the year and may ultimately have to resort to furloughs,” he said. “As a result, millions of Americans filing disability claims his year would wait longer for benefits, Americans going to a field office or calling Social Security’s 1-800 number will wait significantly longer for basic services; and programs integrity efforts would suffer.”

“It may even result in delays in basic retirement claims,” he said.

The House-passed CR cuts $125 million from fiscal 2010 funding for SSA, while the Senate CR would provide $600 million more.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) decried what she called a “hostile attack on the Social Security employees.”

Committee Ranking Member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) countered that the SSA mismanaged stimulus funding to hire employees rather than streamlining the application process to reduce the disability backlog.

Overall the House plan cuts $57 billion more in spending this year, and a Senate Democrat alternative cutting between $4.7 billion and $6.2 billion, depending on the math used. Republicans are now saying the Democrat plan cuts only $4.7 billion because it also rescinds $1.5 billion in emergency funds that were never going to be spent anyway. Democrats are sticking with $6.2 billion in cuts. 

Both plans will be voted on in the Senate on Wednesday.

Shelby also used the hearing to call for Social Security reform to ensure its solvency after 2037, when the trust fund runs out, and benefits will have to be cut since the program would rely only on payroll taxes to continue.

Harkin replied that Appropriations does not have the jurisdiction to deal with that issue and can only focus on administrative costs. 


This article was corrected at 12:58 pm to reflect the current waiting time for disability hearings at SSA.