A union representing more than 750,000 federal employees warned Wednesday that the House GOP’s proposed cuts to the Social Security Administration for the coming fiscal year would deeply harm the already strained and understaffed agency, potentially forcing it to close offices and slash service hours.
Such impacts would “devastate the agency’s ability to serve the American public,” Julie Tippens, legislative director of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), wrote in a letter to the top members of the House Appropriations Committee.
Last week, a Republican-controlled appropriations subcommittee approved legislation that would cut the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) budget for fiscal year 2024 by $183 million below the currently enacted level. President Joe Biden’s 2024 budget proposal, by contrast, called for a $1.4 billion increase for the agency.
The full House Appropriations Committee still must approve the measure, one of a dozen government funding bills that Congress is looking to pass by September 30 to avert a government shutdown.
Tippens noted that “seniors and disabled individuals already face long lines to get help at field offices” — conditions that would only worsen under the GOP proposal.
“Someone calling SSA’s helpline faces an antiquated phone system that frequently drops their calls and where the average wait time is 35 minutes,” Tippens wrote. “A worker with disabilities trying to claim their earned disability benefit faces a wait time of over seven months to get an initial decision and up to two years or longer to schedule a disability hearing. More than 10,000 Americans die, and another 5,000 Americans are forced to declare bankruptcy, every year while waiting for their disability hearing.”
“More cuts to SSA will result in a rapid increase of wait times, force SSA offices to close in many communities, and reduce service hours to the public,” she added, urging lawmakers to reject the funding reduction.
The GOP’s proposed cuts to the Social Security Administration come after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced plans to establish a bipartisan “commission” to examine ways to cut Social Security.
Two weeks after McCarthy’s remarks, the 175-member Republican Study Committee released a proposal that would raise Social Security’s full retirement age to 69, a change that would cut benefits across the board.
Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), a leading proponent of Social Security expansion in the House, warned last week that Republicans’ attack on the Social Security Administration is their “first step” toward cutting benefits.
“Social Security is one thing the American people should be able to count on, yet the House Republican bill would disrupt access to those earned benefits,” said Larson. “Already, years of underfunding, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, have significantly worsened Social Security Administration’s service, and led to lengthy delays during a time of rising need.”
“The House Republican bill will only pile onto this problem, making it harder and harder for Americans to access their earned benefits,” Larson continued. “I will continue to fight for the Social Security Administration to have the funding and staffing it needs to improve customer service to the American people.”
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