Speaking out for People with
 Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

SSA Administrative Funding FY 2016 Conferee Letter

October 21, 2015

The Honorable Roy Blunt
Chairman, Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education, & Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Tom Cole
Chairman, Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education, & Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Patty Murray
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, & Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education, & Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray, Chairman Cole and Ranking Member DeLauro:

As organizations representing stakeholders of the Social Security Administration (SSA), we respectfully ask that as you work to finalize the Fiscal Year 2016 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill that the final bill includes the President’s Budget Request of $12.513 billion for SSA’s Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE) account. We believe this level of funding is critical to ensure that SSA can continue service level improvements while addressing stewardship responsibilities. In order to balance those stewardship responsibilities and provide appropriate service to the American public, SSA must have adequate funding.

The FY 2014 and 2015 funding SSA received from Congress allowed SSA to make appreciable progress in improving its services. This includes restoring some field offices hours, and reducing customer wait times and telephone busy rates for the 800 number calls and calls to field offices. SSA has also been able to significantly increase the number of cost-effective Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs), while working to keep pace with initial disability claims. The agency has also been able to hire more Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to help with the hearings backlog. 

We are gravely concerned that the current Continuing Resolution (CR) is already resulting in difficult cutbacks being made at SSA while continuing to serve the American public. A hiring freeze has already been implemented and the agency is operating with an extremely low level of overtime. SSA’s ability to balance services and stewardship becomes significantly more challenged if funding levels are reduced. If annualized, the CR would provide $11.784 billion for SSA’s LAE account in FY 2016, which is an approximate $22.0 million reduction from the FY 

2015 enacted level. Compounding this potential reduction, is the reality of inflationary increases in many of SSA’s fixed costs each year, totaling about $350 million. As a result, level funding or less effectively leaves SSA with even fewer resources. 

If indeed sequestration remains in effect for FY 2016 it would be devastating for SSA and the people who depend on Social Security. Depending on the level of funding provided by Congress, SSA may need to make the following difficult decisions: 

  •   Hiring freeze and severely limited overtime; 

  •   Potential furlough of SSA’s employees; 

  •   Reduction in CDRs and inability to eliminate the CDR backlog by FY 2019; 

  •   Forego expansion of Cooperative Disability Investigation (CDI) units; 

  •   Suspend mailing of Social Security statements; 

  •   Reduction of field office hours; 

  •   Reduction of services provided by field offices; 

  •   Possible closure of community based field offices, removing the face to face service 

    option for members of the American public; and/or 

  •   Scale back anticipated automation initiatives. 

    Of particular concern are increases in the hearings backlog. At the end of September 2015, there were 1.061 million hearings pending, which is an all-time high. Processing times for a hearing are over 500 days and are nearing a historic high. Under sequestration, the goal of eliminating the backlog by 2020 would no longer be attainable. 

    The processing times and number of hearings pending are not acceptable to the millions of Americans who depend on Social Security or SSI for their basic income, meeting health care costs, and supporting their families. While waiting for receipt of these critical benefits, many individuals experience life shattering events – homes are lost to foreclosure, families are separated, health deteriorates, and, too often, people die. If SSA does not receive adequate funding for FY 2016 this degradation will continue and the disability hearings backlog will require even more significant resources in FY 2017 to improve service levels. 

    In FY 2013, SSA sustained a $386 million sequestration reduction. It is imperative that SSA be spared this repeated scenario. If not averted, the impact of sequestration would once again be dire for the members of the public who rely on SSA for essential services. SSA would experience severe service disruptions and even longer delays for people who desperately need vital assistance. 

    We realize $12.513 billion for SSA’s administrative funding is not insignificant, particularly in this difficult federal budget environment. However, Social Security serves as the largest and most vital component of the social safety net of America and is facing unprecedented challenges due to the aging of the baby boomers. The American public expects and deserves SSA’s assistance. 

SSA needs proper resources to fulfill its stewardship responsibilities and, in turn, provide a good return on taxpayer dollars. We are confident this investment in SSA will benefit our entire nation. On behalf of the undersigned organizations, with members throughout the United States, we sincerely appreciate your consideration of this request. 

Sincerely, 

Aging Life Care Association
Alliance for Retired Americans
American Association of Social Security Disability Consultants (AASSDC)
The Arc of the United States
Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ)
B'nai B'rith International
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Corporation for Supportive Housing
Easter Seals
Federal Managers Association (FMA)
Justice in Aging
Lupus Foundation of America
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a)
National Association of Disability Examiners (NADE)
National Association of Disability Representatives (NADR)
National Association of State Head Injury Administrators
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) National Council of Disability Determination Directors (NCDDD)
National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA) National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) National Respite Coalition
National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU)
OWL-The Voice of Women 40+
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Social Security Disability Coalition
VOR