As the waiting times for hearings drift further into unconscionable levels, Social Security is trying to do more work with fewer workers. According to Deputy Commissioner Doug Walker, SSA's current budget is 10% less than it was in 2010, as adjusted for inflation. During those seven years, the number of Americans claiming benefits has ballooned. Add together all the retirees and the disabled and those getting various ancillary benefits and nearly one in every five Americans gets some sort of Social Security benefit.
More Cuts Coming
The incoming administration seems determined to cut Social Security's budget even further. Trump has signaled that cutting the
federal work force is among his primary goals. A worker at a local Social Security office told me this week that they are planning on Draconian reductions. This will start with attrition, meaning not replacing workers who leave. Once this effect is no longer enough, the government is going to begin to target current employees for termination.
Not Just The Disabled Will Be Affected
This is likely to mean that people who need Social Security's various services are going to have to work harder and wait much longer to get them. We see the effects already in such things as the time it takes to get a disability hearing. But even simple things like calling Social Security to get information is going to be more difficult. Applying for retirement benefits is going to be a bigger challenge as retirees will have to apply much farther in advance and wait for Social Security to process their applications.
Is This Fair?
People fund Social Security by paying into the program their entire working lives. It seems reasonable to ask if it is fair to make these same people face bureaucratic obstacles just to get what they are entitled to receive. The disabled have no meaningful voice in Washington. But, if these budget cuts begin to affect the elderly, perhaps Social Security can begin to see it's budget expanded. After all, no group votes more regularly than do the elderly. Voting is still the only way ordinary Americans can hope to have any influence over their representatives.
No, Seriously: Call Your Member of Congress
If you think it is not right for Congress to cut Social Security's budget, contact your member of Congress and let him or her now.