Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue recently testified before the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee.  During his testimony, he addressed the Administration’s ongoing challenge to meet the continuing increase of disability claims with its limited funding.  According to Astrue, appropriations for the Social Security Administration in fiscal year 2011 and 2012 were far below the President’s request and the Administration is operating with $400 million less this year than in 2010.

Since 2007, Retirement and Survivor claims have increased by over 30 percent and Social Security Disability claims have increased nearly 25 percent.  The funding shortfall makes it very difficult to meet this increased work load.  Due to the funding issues, the Social Security Administration expects to lose 3,000 employees in 2012 and another 2,000 in 2013.  On top of the 4,000 employees already lost in 2011, this will leave Social Security and State Disability Determination Services with a total loss of more than 9,000 employees.   With fewer employees it will increase the time it takes to process social security disability claims.  It will also extend the effort to eliminate the hearings backlog.

Addressing the loss of employees, Astrue stated, “Tough choices loom.  The complexity of the disability programs requires skilled employees to make decisions.  Uncertain budgets make it hard to replace the experienced employees because we do not know if we can afford to keep new hires.”

Despite this continuing challenge, however, Astrue expressed hope in making the disability processes more efficient stating, “We are proud of our efforts over recent years to improve how we manage our disability programs.  Social Security remains a sound investment.  Our administrative costs are very low, and our productivity has increased by about 4 percent each of the last 5 years.”

Astrue looks to the internet to be a heavy contributor to future improved efficiency with the online application process, the development of the online appeal process, and online/computer resources to train employees.

Read the full text of Michael Astrue’s testimony here.

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