Waiting times are bad if you walk into a Social Security office for help. The reason is staffing cuts and a steadily increasing number of visitors to Social Security offices. It’s not all Disability claims, over 10,000 people are reaching retirement age EVERY DAY in the USA. That means a LOT of people will be crowding into your local Social Security office on a daily basis from now on. Social Security is trying to take care of the retirement application crush by encouraging people to file their own claims online and encouraging people to not go into the office at all. Of course, many people prefer to talk to someone in person when they file for their retirement benefits, so it is not necessarily a solution to the problem.

In private industry, usually if you have more business, you hire more staff to handle the increasing work. Yet Social Security offices have had to take in more claims, assume additional work as regulations and procedures get more complicated, all on lower and lower staffing levels.

Barack Obama has stated he understands Social Security needs more staffing to handle the workload. He has a lot on his plate right now, he hasn’t taken office yet, I suspect Social Security staffing isn’t one of the first things he intends to address once he takes office.

But it is encouraging that he understand staffing levels should go up, not down. Here’s the text of a letter he wrote to the union of Social Security employees, AFGE. If you would like to see a copy of the letter, it’s here.

October 20, 2008

John Gage

National President

American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO

80 F Street, NW

Washington, DC 20001

Dear President Gage,

I am writing to respond to the concerns you raised with my staff regarding the challenges facing the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the issue of Social Security privatization.

First, I strongly agree with you that there is a critical need to increase funding for the SSA administrative expenses account to address the serious challenges facing the agency. Due to prolonged underfunding, SSA has reduced staffing levels even as its workload has increased. SSA agency staffing will soon reach its lowest level since 1972 even though SSA’s beneficiary population has nearly doubled since that time.

An unfortunate result of underfunding is an unprecedented backlog in SSA disability claims. As of August 2008, about 767,000 people were awaiting a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on their Social Security disability claims, compared to about 312,000 cases pending in October 2000. There has also been an increase in Field Office waiting times.

Second, I want assure you that I will continue to strongly oppose Social Security privatization. As you know, I have spoken out many times against President Bush’s Social

Security privatization plan, including a major speech in the midst of the 2005 privatization debate at the National Press Club. I also voted in 2005, 2006 and 2007 against amendments supported by Senator McCain and other Republicans that aimed to privatize Social Security.

Thank you, John, for everything you and your members do for America.


Barack Obama