Service Cuts, Computer Problems Cloud Social Security’s 79th Birthday:
The Social Security Administration should have reason to celebrate. After all, August 14, 2014, marked the 79th anniversary of the day when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, which ushered in the landmark entitlement program. However, the agency’s birthday was a less than cheerful one, coming on the heels an audit that criticized the SSA for deciding to cut staffing and reduce its service hours as well as the news that its new multimillion-dollar computer system may very well have turned out to be an expensive failure.
According to the audit that was produced by the SSA’s own inspector general’s office, “overall service has suffered” because of the agency’s decision in 2011 to trim its staff by nearly 11,000 employees and reduce its weekly field office hours from 35 to 27. The audit found that the end result of the agency’s cutbacks was felt as soon as fiscal year 2013, when “the public waited longer for a decision on their disability claim, to talk to a representative on the National 800-Number, and to schedule an appointment” at a field office. (1)
The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits is already an exercise that can take a significant amount of time and become rather complex. The inspector general’s findings are not welcome news for disabled Americans who need a speedy resolution of their claims. In addition to the critical assessment from the inspector general’s office, an internal report recently concluded that the SSA’s new $300 million computer system that was designed to handle its disability claims does not work. The agency laid the groundwork for the new system six years ago, when its aging computers were being swamped by disability claims, but the report found that delays and mismanagement have plagued the new system. And SSA officials have not been able to provide an answer for when the new system will be up and running. (2)
The Social Security Administration may have thought that its new computer system could make up for its decision to cut back service, but that assumption would have been dependent on the system actually working. Instead, already long wait times for the processing of disability claims will get even longer. Also, SSA has attempted to thwart phone applications by not advertising such are available and at times tell claimant’s the only two avenues to apply are on the computer or a personal appearance at the local SSA office. It is clear the phone application is the easiest for the public, but the “consumer” being right has fallen on deaf ears in most SSA offices.
David W. Magann, P.A.
Sources: (1) The Washington Post 2014, (2) The Associated Press 2014