Union Releases Analysis of Sequester Impact on Agency Services
Today the American Federation of Government Employees, its National Council of Social Security Field Operations Locals (NCSSFOL) and the Social Security Works Coalition released a new study detailing the impact on Social Security Administration (SSA) staffing and services of the federal sequestration plan. To highlight the study and bring attention to potential budget cuts, the groups are holding rallies at over one hundred Social Security offices around the country.
“If sequestration is allowed to go into effect”, said AFGE Council President Witold Skwiercznski, “applicants and beneficiaries will have more difficulty getting answers to their questions and confidence in the Social Security system’s ability to function effectively will erode. Lawmakers need to wake up and know that further cuts at SSA cannot be sustained”.
SSA expects to lose an additional 2,000 employees in FY 2013, which means the agency will lose a total of more than 9,000 federal and state employees from FY 2011 through FY 2013. SSA will have approximately the same number of employees in FY 2013 as it did in FY 2007, even though workloads have increased dramatically with retirement and survivor claims up 30 percent, and disability claims up 25 percent.
The study looked at staffing levels and eleven specific production measures – indications of quality and efficiency – as a basis for determining the impact of sequestration. According to the results, all of the measures used would show degraded performance under a sequester. “Whether it’s staffing levels which would be cut by almost 4,000 or the length of time it takes to approve a disability application, which would increase by six days, this plan is an attack on Social Security”, said Nancy Altman, co-chair of the Social Security Works Coalition.
The study presents one scenario for the way in which SSA will attempt to reduce services in order to comply with the required reduction. In addition to the impacts described in the study, SSA has already decided to reduce field office hours by 3.5 on Wednesdays and 30 minutes on all other days of the week; approximately 41 field offices have been closed over the past two years and more closings are expected and/or planned for the future. Finally, the study does not provide an estimate of potential staff furloughs as it has no empirical data upon which to base an estimate.
“We are holding these rallies on a Wednesday afternoon to remind people that if they need help from SSA on a Wednesday afternoon, they will be out of luck. Employees want to work, people need the help, but the agency will be closing its doors at noon, regardless”.
Despite spending less than one percent per year to administer the Old Age and Survivfors Program and despite the fact the funds come out of the Social Security Trust Fund, the budget for SSA has been virtually flat since 2010. “We are being starved of resources needed to operate the program, and worse, it is for no good or justifiable reason”, concluded Skwiercznski.