Sorry for the confusion. The hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Social Security's administrative budget did go ahead today. Here are excerpts from Acting Commissioner Colvin's written testimony:
Shrinking resources and workforce, and rising workloads have resulted in people waiting much longer—and becoming increasingly frustrated. On those increasing occasions when frustration spills over into aggression or even violence, our employees, as well as members of the public, are at risk. Since FY 2011, our employees have been exposed to a nearly 20 percent increase in threats. We owe it to our employees and the people they serve to do everything we can to protectand support them. ...
The current budget situation is exacerbating the negative effects of over two straight years of funding levels nearly a billion dollars below the President’s budget requests. With fewer employees to serve our customers, we are seeing serious signs of service deterioration. Examples include:
- This week, close to 12,000 visitors to our field offices will have to wait over 2 hours to be
served, a figure that has almost tripled in just the last 4 months;
- The average wait time for field office visitors without an appointment increasing by 40 percent, from just 21 minutes in FY 2010 to about 30 minutes through January of FY 2013;
- Our 800-number average busy rate increasing from 4.6 percent of all calls in FY 2010 (which equates to 2.6 million calls) to about 15 percent of all calls through January of FY
2013 (which equates to 3.3 million calls and puts us on-pace for a projected 10.5 million
calls for FY 2013); and
- Our average speed of answer for the 800-number more than doubling from about 3.5 minutes in FY 2010 to over 7.5 minutes through January of FY 2013. ...
As a result, we estimate that pending levels of initial disability claims will rise by over 140,000 claims, and on average, applicants will have to wait about 2 weeks longer for a decision on an initial disability claim and nearly a month longer for a disability hearing decision. Visitors in our field offices will wait significantly longer, and callers to our 800-number will wait almost 10 minutes for us to answer. ...
We have worked hard to reduce the hearings backlog. Our results illustrate the enormous good that can be achieved with a dedicated commitment of resources to an important agency workload. With more judges and employees to decide cases, as well as wider use of video hearings, we reduced average processing time from an all-time high of 532 days in August 2008 to a low of 340 days in October 2011. However, because of cutbacks in the budget, average processing time started trending upwards in FY 2012 and is currently at 382 days. Without adequate funding, our gains in this area will soon be a distant memory. ...
[W]e do not expect to have the ability to hire ALJs until the third or fourth quarter of FY 2014. Until we can hire more ALJs, reducing our average processing time will be impossible. For now, the best we can deliver is a stable average processing time.
Finally, as we have reduced processing times for hearings and the hearing backlog itself, we have seen a significant increase in Federal District Court filings whereby claimants appeal unfavorable decisions. In FY 2012, 16,831cases were filed in the Federal District Courts, which represent a 7.7 percent increase over the 14,236 filings of FY 2011 and an 18 percent increase over the 12,952 filings of FY 2010. We anticipate even more court filings in FY 2013, possibly as many as18,600. While attorney productivity in the briefing of these cases has increased by 8 percent since 2010, we will be hard-pressed to meet the court deadlines of such a growing caseload.