Employees of the Social Security Administration are worried about the possibility that Congress might cut vital agency funds used to help the disabled.
Some administration workers are concerned about a possible 9 percent cut to the agency’s budget. Last week the U.S. House adopted legislation that contained the proposed budget cut, which might force the agency to impose up to a month’s worth of unpaid “furlough” days on employees to meet a $10.7 billion spending limit.
The furlough days threaten the processing of Social Security disability benefits because some current employees already work six day workweeks and hours of overtime to manage claims. One employee told the Daily Tribune that he was responsible for tracking the compliance of up to 10,000 clients at once and that he cannot keep up the workload despite maintaining a grueling schedule.
Employees also told the Daily Tribune that the system is overwhelmed and that approvals of disability benefits can drag on for such a long time that some recipients with chronic diseases die before receiving their first check. Employees who process Supplemental Security Income claims also complained that some applicants who were obviously sick or injured had difficulty proving that they couldn’t work because they were uninsured and could not afford a doctor’s visit.
Another employee said that his office becomes a production line when it is overwhelmed with applicants and that the staff uses “triage efforts” to deal with the crowds. The employee said that the people seeking Social Security disability benefits are going through major life issues and that such substandard service was unfair.
“They’re not just a number, these are people,” the employee said. “We don’t show them the proper compassion or respect.”
The Social Security Administration oversees two important benefit programs, among others, that many disabled workers rely on.
Social Security Disability (SSD) insurance benefits are available to workers who paid into the national disability insurance system by working. SSD benefits cover a broad range of physical and mental disabilities and compensate those who can no longer work due to their disability.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program available to all Americans who cannot work. Disabled individuals do not need to pay into the national disability insurance system to become eligible for SSI benefits. SSI benefits also often extend to dependents such as children.
Source: Daily Tribune, “Levin told that budget cuts would cripple Social Security offices,” Chad Selweski 2/23/11