Oct 19, 2011

Getting The Word Out

     From the Reuters Money blog:
“Starving the beast” is a favorite conservative strategy for forcing cuts in federal spending. The idea is to deprive the government of revenue in order to force spending cuts ...
The SSA [Social Security Administration] is funded through the same Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax that pays benefits, so it doesn’t compete for general revenue to meet its costs. But Congressional appropriators — who oversee its budget — have been squeezing the agency anyway.
In fiscal 2011, Congress provided the SSA with about $1 billion less than requested by President Obama. Those cuts forced the agency to make cuts that beneficiaries have noticed. It suspended mailing of the annual statement of benefits, and it shelved plans to open eight new hearing offices to handle the backlog of disability claims, which has soared during the recession.
SSA had planned to restore the statement mailings in fiscal 2012 to people over age 60 not yet receiving benefits  – but that won’t happen “if Congress doesn’t provide adequate support,” says SSA spokesman Mark Hinkle....
Hinkle says the SSA also has responded to the tight budget by reducing employee overtime by 80 percent. That has cut into the amount of time available to help people who come into SSA local field offices for face-to-face services. The agency also lost about 1,600 workers last year who can’t be replaced due to a hiring freeze.
     In addition to learning about the 80% cut in overtime, I take away from this the fact that a Social Security spokesperson is out there alerting the media about Social Security's appropriations problem, something that Social Security has traditionally not done. In fact, my impression has been that over the decades that Social Security has always downplayed its funding problems -- to the agency's detriment. I would be interested to know who made the first contact in this case, Hinkle or the reporter.


Anonymous said...

The reduction in overtime came only at the beginning of the fiscal year. Through Sept 30, many field office, hearing office, and Appeals Council employees were able to work UNLIMITED -- you read that correctly -- overtime. In addition, there are many GS-13 and higher managers who are/were earning overtime. I've been a manager for more than 8 years and can count the # of hours of overtime I've worked on both hands. In fact, I've donated much of my time after 6 pm b/c I was told I could work overtime but not compensatory time.

No Saj said...

I hadn't realized that an SSA spokesperson was doing this. I was under the impression that Jim Courtney (a Bush appointee that still lingers on), who is in charge of the Office of Communications, has kept his appointment precisely because he hasn't been sending spokespeople out to advocate for SSA funding.

I'd love to hear more details about who this spokesperson/people are and what they're doing in the media. It's been long, long overdue.

Anonymous said...

Mark Hinkle in the acting Press Officer at SSA and Jim Courtney is his boss.