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For Members: Information on President Obama's Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request for SSA
February 9, 2016
President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal today. It includes a requested total budget authority of $13.237 billion for the Social Security Administration.
This includes $13.067 billion for Limitation on Administrative Expense (LAE), which pays for SSA staff salaries, offices, equipment, and other items and services needed to carry out SSA’s mission. It also includes $112 million for SSA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and $58 million for research.
If Congress granted the President’s budget request, SSA would see a 7.02% increase in funding for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins October 1, 2016. The Fiscal Year 2016 budget approved by Congress includes $12.162 billion for LAE and $ 106 million for OIG. One area that would see a reduction in FY 2017 is research, which received $112 million for Fiscal Year 2016.
However, Congress is unlikely to grant the President’s budget request. There are usually Congressional hearings about budget requests, but the Republican majority in both houses decide when to hold hearings and have not scheduled any on this topic. Instead, they will develop their own federal funding plan. In recent years, Congress has provided far less to SSA than the President has requested.
The President’s budget proposal also includes twenty recommendations for bills Congress should pass.
Many of these legislative proposals are repeated from prior years, including requiring employers to report wages quarterly rather than annually, extending time limits for refugees’ and asylees’ SSI eligibility, and terminating stepchildren’s benefits in the same month their parents’ benefits end. Some will be helpful to beneficiaries: one proposal would limit SSA’s ability to collect overpayments from certain former childhood beneficiaries; another would eliminate the requirement that child SSI recipients have “dedicated accounts” for large retroactive benefit payments. Other proposals would be more challenging. One proposal would make it harder for SSI and SSDI beneficiaries to discharge their overpayments in bankruptcy, and another would increase the minimum amount SSA is allowed to recover from Title II beneficiaries who have been overpaid. Few of these proposals are likely to be introduced in Congress, let alone become law. NOSSCR will continue to monitor all relevant legislation.
In previous years, the President included a “UI/DI offset” proposal, where SSDI beneficiaries would see a reduction in their benefits if they attempted to work, lost their jobs, and received unemployment compensation. NOSSCR and other groups opposed such an offset and we are pleased to see it is not included in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal.
Finally, many NOSSCR members eagerly anticipate the “waterfall chart” SSA publishes with its budget documents.
This year’s chart, seen below (also avaialble on page 77; labeled page 169 of the SSA FY 2017 budget document: https://www.ssa.gov/budget/FY17Files/2017LAE.pdf) indicates that in Fiscal Year 2015, 45% of ALJ hearings resulted in awards of benefits, 37% resulted in unfavorable decisions, and the remaining 18% of hearing requests were dismissed without a decision. SSA made less than 508,000 decisions (including dismissals) at the ALJ level in Fiscal Year 2015, while receiving more than 746,000 hearing requests. This discrepancy means that even with the level of funding the President requested and the additional staff it could support, SSA estimates that wait times for hearings will increase to 555 days in Fiscal Year 2017. NOSSCR continues to advocate about the devastating effect such wait times have on disability benefit claimants. We will soon release a sample letter NOSSCR members can send to their members of Congress in support of sufficient funding to reduce the hearings backlog.
More information about the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 request for SSA is available at ssa.gov/budget.
NOSSCR Members with questions are encouraged to contact NOSSCR’s government affairs staff at (202) 457-7775, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.