Mar 24, 2014

Cuts In Customer Service And The Future Of Social Security

     Michael Hiltzik writing about the cuts in customer service at Social Security, "revealed" by Mark Miler at Reuters (actually, I've been talking about these cuts for many years but it's good to see others paying attention):
It's no secret that if you really want to destroy a business, just hack away at its customer service. (Sears has been testing this axiom with considerable vigor.) The principle also holds true for government programs, which is why you should be very suspicious about the relentless budget-cutting at the Social Security Administration. ...
As Nancy Altman, co-director of the advocacy group Strengthen Social Security, told Miller, this is part of "a raging fight by conservatives to get rid of the government's footprint wherever possible." And since Social Security has long been in their cross hairs, it's unsurprising that a meat cleaver has been taken to its administrative budget. The budget request has been pared down in 14 of the last 16 years, Miller found. ...
The more those services deteriorate, the less faith people have fundamentally in Social Security, which is the strongest, most successful public program Congress has ever enacted. So when the program's customer services are slashed, think about who's really being served by the void that remains.
     It may be time to start talking about the latest right wing gambit to hurt Social Security. It goes something like this: "We'll give your agency more money but on the condition that you only spend the money on an enormous effort to find the vast criminal conspiracies that we know must be cheating the government out of billions of dollars." Of course, there are no vast criminal conspiracies so all the Social Security Administration can do is to spend a lot of money chasing down small time crooks while service to the millions of honest Americans who rely on Social Security continues to go to hell. The right wing will trumpet the existence of small time crooks as proof that Social Security is inherently corrupt while heaping scorn on the Social Security Administration for not finding the vast criminal conspiracies that exist in the imaginations of the right. It catches some small time crooks who deserve to be caught but the end result damages Social Security.
     I've got no problem with stepped up efforts at detecting fraud at Social Security so long as the agency can give good service to the public. I've got a problem with simultaneously cutting service at Social Security while spending a lot of money chasing down a few crooks. That's nuts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have moved beyond that time to consider social security offices exist to handle social security workloads. SSI and the related workloads handled in social security offices for needs based programs changed that reality in ways we are still trying to understand. This is not a conservative or republican plot against the Title II or Medicare programs. There is relatively little additional work to handle Title II and Medicare post eligibility matters or even appeals, and initial claims are also much easier and less time consuming to process compared to SSI workloads. Issues concerning fraud, similar fault, and "misunderstanding" are much more common concerning eligibility and continuing payments in the SSI program. Yes, less time and manpower is needed to handle Title II workloads, including CDRs, than what was needed in the past. More time and review is needed to accurately handle SSI workloads. Good service to the public includes protecting both the trust funds and taxpayer funds for the programs we administer by following the law and regulations. The general public appreciates integrity in our actions and will support us when they know that there are consequences for those who do wrong.