On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I am writing to share with you the deep concern I have about proposals under consideration in Congress regarding funding for the Social Security Administration (SSA) for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2011.
As you know, 54 million Americans receive Social Security benefits each month. The benefits they receive from this program constitute a vital lifeline that is critical to their economic well-being. Given the essential nature of Social Security, I am deeply concerned that Congress is considering plans that will reduce substantially the funding available to the agency for operating expenses for the remainder of this year.
In FY 2010, the last time Congress enacted an appropriation for SSA, a total of $11.5 billion was made available for the purpose of administering the Social Security program. Although the President's FY 2011 budget called for an appropriation for SSA of $12.5 billion, the Agency's spending level under a continuing resolution has been frozen at the FY 2010 level while Congress continues to work on an appropriation for the remainder of the year.
Staying within this reduced level of spending has been challenging. As we understand it, the approach the Agency has taken to meet this challenge has been to reduce staffing levels. That has meant that new hiring has been drastically curtailed. The Agency's network of some 1,300 local field offices has been especially hard hit. For some time now, we understand that if employees retire or otherwise leave an office, they cannot be replaced. This has resulted in significant staffing imbalances that have stretched the capability of the staff to provide timely and effective levels of public service.
Now we hear the Agency's funding for the remainder of the year could be cut even more. What would a further cut in funding mean to America's seniors? It means having to wait longer to get an appointment to file for benefits. It means not receiving a decision in a timely manner. It means getting a busy signal when you call an office or the Agency's toll-free 800 number telephone service. It means not having your change of address or direct deposit information processed in a timely fashion.
And finally, it means significant employee furloughs or even office closures, resulting in even greater degradations of service to America's seniors.
We deplore this penny wise-pound foolish approach to serving the American public, and join you in calling for Congress to provide the SSA with the level of funding the President has requested in his FY 2011 budget. Now is the time for those who are in Congress to show their commitment to Social Security by giving SSA the resources it needs to do its job.