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Spotlight on SSA’s budget: NYT and 60 Minutes

The budget crisis at SSA continues to hurt the most vulnerable among us, with administrative delays, redundancies, and overpayment clawbacks that put the onus on beneficiaries to correct the agency’s errors. Public pressure is building for SSA and Congress to improve this dysfunctional system, including a 60 Minutes segment last month and a more recent investigative piece in the New York Times. 

In a rare public interview with the Times, SSA Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi stressed that even if funding remains flat, SSA will face an operational decrease overall due to rising costs:  

“It will take years of sustained, sufficient funding and collaboration both within the agency and with outside partners for the agency to recover from a work force and service crisis that was years in the making,” she said. 

Training new workers typically takes more than a year because Social Security rules are so complex. And the current short-term extension of spending forced the agency to freeze hiring. 

“If the final budget … maintains level funding, the hiring freeze will continue throughout the year,” she added. “Given expected attrition over the course of the year, we will not be able to replace the people who leave.” 

This view contrasts with our perspective at NOSSCR – that substantive customer service improvements are indeed possible with current technology and budget.  

Kijakazi also emphasizes overpayments and says the policy can change with the proper legislation. However, the agency already has statutory latitude to forego recovery based on equity and good conscience, so these claims ring somewhat hollow. 

For a rundown of NOSSCR’s proposed budget-neutral changes to SSA policies and procedures, read our recommendations here 

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