It's a great thing that Democrats are united behind expanding Social Security. Knowing that a new line—no cuts to Social Security benefits—is huge. But before we can even get to the fight that makes expansion happen, there are Social Security cuts happening under a Republican Congress that are hurting seniors and disabled people all over the country. Those cuts are to the core operating budget of the Social Security Administration, which has been slashed by 10 percent in the last five years.
Almost all of SSA’s operating budget is spent on staff, and most of SSA’s staff provide direct service to the public. Funding cuts — which have fueled the loss of 6 percent of SSA’s staff nationwide since 2010 — unavoidably result in service gaps. There are fewer people to take appointments, answer phones, and process applications for Social Security’s vital retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. As a result, applicants and beneficiaries must wait longer.
This new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows, state-by-state, what these administrative costs means. In five states—Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and West Virginia—offices have lost at least 15 percent of their staff. One of the things this has resulted in is "a record-high disability hearing backlog of over 1 million applicants, and some applicants wait over two years for a final decision."
Daily Kos spoke with Nancy Altman, Founding Co-Director of Social Security Works, who made a critical point about these cuts: "There are two ways to dismantle Social Security: First, benefits can be cut, privatized, or both. Second, Congress can make it impossible, by starving the Social Security Administration's budget and creating huge backlogs, for people to claim their earned benefits. Republicans are trying to do both." And they're succeeding in doing the second.
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