Nov 6, 2007

Federal Times On Social Security Staffing

From the Federal Times (emphasis added):
The Social Security Administration has a problem.

The first baby boomers started applying for Social Security retirement benefits last month, signaling what is certain to be a huge demand for the agency’s services.

Yet the agency has its lowest staffing levels in 35 years.

SSA expects its staffing to dip to fewer than 60,000 by next September, spokesman Mark Lassiter said last week. That’s the lowest level since 1973, the year before Congress ordered the agency to ramp up staffing to handle a new supplemental security income program, which provides cash for elderly, blind and disabled people to pay for food, clothing and shelter. ...

“This is a cause for concern,” Lassiter said. “We’re seeing a significant increase in the number of disability claims in recent years directly because of the baby boomers. And we can’t do any hiring.”

Lassiter said SSA imposed a hiring freeze at the start of the current fiscal year. Congress has not yet passed any spending bills, so the agency — like all others in government — is operating under a continuing resolution that keeps its funding at the 2007 level of $9.3 billion. ...

To whittle down its backlog of disability claims cases, the agency plans to hire more administrative law judges: 150 by spring and 125 more in 2009. SSA wants to have 1,250 judges in all by September.

The agency expects to lose about 65 of its 1,040 administrative law judges to attrition over the next two years. [Less than 3% annual attrition among a group of employees who, on average, are probably in their mid-50s! Who are you kidding?] Lassiter said SSA also will hire 92 support staffers this fiscal year to assist the judges.

The agency plans to replace only one of every two state disability determination service (DDS) employees who leave in 2008, Lassiter said. These SSA-funded offices decide whether people claiming severe disabilities should receive benefits.

About 1,500 of the 15,000 DDS employees nationwide are expected to retire in 2008, and 750 are expected to be replaced.

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