Social Security: AARP Calls on Congress To Increase Funding as SSA ‘Steadily’ Eroding

Worried senior couple using phone while sitting on sofa at home.
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If you plan on reaching out to the Social Security Administration for assistance, either by phone or in person, prepare to have some patience. You could be waiting for a while.

As the deadline approaches for Congress to approve spending for the coming year, AARP is calling on lawmakers to increase funding for the agency due to deteriorating customer service — particularly delaying timely service for older adults and those with disabilities.

Social Security “has been plagued with serious customer service deficiencies occasioned by underfunding,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, stated in a Dec. 2 letter to leaders of Congress. LeaMond has urged Congress to fully fund the White House’s $14.8 billion budget request for the agency to help address long wait times.

Further, “Funding for the Social Security Administration has steadily eroded over the past decade, even though the number of people served has grown dramatically,” said David Certner, AARP’s legislative policy director.

Over the past decade, the SSA’s operating budget has decreased by 17% (when adjusted for inflation) while the number of beneficiaries it serves has grown by 21%, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, AARP pointed out. Staffing is also at a 25-year low after cutting 7% of its workforce during the pandemic.

In a November blog post, Social Security deputy communications commisioner Jeff Nesbit wrote that the agency will need more funding to keep up with demand. Due to staffing shortages, Nesbit said that many Americans are waiting an average of over six months for a decision on an initial disability claim — and over 30 minutes to speak to a representative through the national customer service number.

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AARP noted that the consequences of underfunding can be disastrous. More than 10,000 people die each year while waiting for a decision on their disability claim, per the organization.

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