Mar 30, 2007

Social Security Budget Situation

Let me start out by saying that I am no budget expert. In fact, the more I study Social Security's budget situation and the federal budget process, the more complicated it seems. Acknowledging that I may err, let me summarize what I understand the situation to be.
Social Security's Fiscal Year (FY) Actual Budget 2007 -- (October 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007) $9.3 billion

Social Security's FY 2008 (October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008) Budget Request -- $10.44 billion -- a 13% increase over FY 2007

President's FY 2008 Budget --$9.6 billion -- a 4% increase -- little more than inflation

House of Representatives FY 2008 Budget Resolution Budget For Social Security--$10.11 billion -- a 9% increase over the FY 2007

Senate FY 2008 Budget Resolution Budget For Social Security -- I am still trying to figure this one out. I think it is similar to the House Budget Resolution, but a bit lower. I would appreciate it if someone who understands the process better can supply me with the Senate number.
These budget resolution figure, to the extent that I can understand it, is only a general guideline. The Appropriations Committees of the two houses of Congress must report out specific funding bills and those must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. Other agencies are jockeying with Social Security for appropriations, within the general guidelines set forth by the budget resolutions. In other words, Social Security's actual appropriaton for FY 2008 could go up or down from the figures suggested by the House budget resolution, but will probably be in the same ball park.

This certainly suggests that Social Security's FY 2008 budget will be much better than its FY 2007 budget, but that does not mean that all of Social Security's budget problems will disappear. Even the budget put forward by Social Security is likely to be well below what the agency needs to work down its backlogs quickly. Any agency must avoid offending the White House's Office of Management and Budget and Congress with budget requests which seem extravagant. Social Security's budget request for FY 2008 was prepared under the direction of Jo Anne Barnhart. She was never willing to pursue her agency's budget needs aggressively, so there is good reason to believe that, if anything, the budget she produced suffers from an excess of modesty, and Social Security is not going to get all of that.

What we can hope for at the moment is enough funds to stabilize Social Security's field offices, teleservice centers and payment centers, which are in a state of impending collapse, and to make some modest improvements at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), which suffered a collapse in 2001 from which it has never recovered. Full recovery at ODAR (which should include a name change back to the Office of Hearings and Appeals -- everybody involved HATES the name ODAR) is likely to take many years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You've got it quite right, I believe, Charles. The "Budget Resolutions" in the House and Senate are guidelines; they are not binding (at the appropriation level) on the Appropriations Committees, although deviating significantly can cause an appropriations bill to be subject to a point of order. In any event, keep an eye on the actual Appropriations process. But in sum, SSA should see a budget over the 10 billion level.