AARP: Maintain Social Security Funding During Recession

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 4, 2010.  AARP, along with dozens of organizations representing stakeholders of Social Security, sent a letter to House and Senate leadership today requesting that Congress fund the Social Security Administration (SSA) at the recommended level of $12.379 billion for FY 2011. This funding level was requested by the President and recommended by key Appropriations committees and subcommittees. The organizations also called for funding SSA at a higher level under the possible scenario of an extended Continuing Resolution in order to address the significant backlogs in disability claims, appeals and hearings, along with increased assistance needed for SSA’s field offices.

Key excerpts of the letter are below:

“As organizations representing stakeholders of the Social Security Administration (SSA), we respectfully request that as you work to finalize FY 2011 appropriations levels you retain the full President’s Budget Request of $12.379 billion for SSA…

“This level of funding is absolutely critical for SSA to address the increase in requests for assistance from the American public due in large part to the economic downturn. SSA teleservice centers, hearing offices, Disability Determination Services (DDSs), and the nearly 1,300 field offices are in critical need of adequate resources to address their growing workloads.

“The greatest concern for SSA remains the rising number of new claims and appeals coming into the agency, especially disability claims… In the 25-month period ending in October 2010, the number of claims pending a disability medical decision rose from 556,670 to 851,812, an increase of 53 percent.

“SSA was making steady progress in addressing the enormous backlog at the hearings level until recently…Unfortunately, for the last four months the number of hearings pending has increased and as of the end of October is at 718,196. The reason for the sharp increase is the number of new hearings being filed, due in large part to our distressed economy.

“… Processing time for a hearing has been reduced from 491 days for all of FY 2009 to 377 days in the month of October 2010. Unfortunately the number of claims and hearings pending is still not acceptable to the thousands of Americans who depend on Social Security or Supplemental Security Income for their basic income, meeting health care costs, and support of their families. Adequate funding must be made available to continue to reduce the number of cases pending and the time it requires to process these cases.

“SSA field offices continue to see a record number of visitors. In FY 2010, 45.4 million customers requested assistance from the field offices. The field offices are also responsible for processing an additional 1.2 million Supplemental Security Income (SSI) redeterminations in FY 2011 as compared to FY 2008, an increase of 100 percent.

“…We understand there is a possibility that the Congress may adjourn at the end of the year without enacting an appropriation for the Social Security Administration and instead, extend the current Continuing Resolution (CR) further into the fiscal year. If that is done, it is vitally important that SSA be funded at a higher level under an extended CR rather than freezing spending at last year’s funding level. Allowing SSA to fund its operations during an extended CR at the FY 2011 level proposed by the Appropriations Committees would ensure that SSA would continue to make progress in reducing the significant backlogs that have accumulated in virtually all agency workloads.

“By providing SSA with the necessary resources, the agency will reduce the hearings backlog and also protect many Americans from unnecessary financial hardship.”