Because of inadequate appropriations for its operations and huge uncertainty about how much money it would have to spend from year to year and even month to month, over the last decade Social Security came to rely more and more on employee overtime to get its work done. The overtime usually come in spurts once Social Security got an appropriation. Typically, work would slow to a crawl while Social Security was operating on a continuing funding resolution at the beginning on a fiscal year and would then surge once there was an appropriation. This happened because there was little overtime available during the continuing resolution but once it was over the agency would use overtime to try to catch up.
I'm only seeing the narrow slice of the Social Security Administration that I'm dealing with but my theory is that things are different this year. Yes, I can certainly tell that some overtime was authorized after Social Security finally got its appropriation this year but it seems like far less than recent years. I know that Social Security is doing a good deal more hiring than in recent years. Has Acting Commissioner Colvin changed the priorities in this fiscal year -- less overtime, more hiring?
I have mixed feelings about this change, if it has happened. In the long run, having more employees is definitely a good thing. It gives the agency a better ability to process its workload without the wild swings we've seen in recent years when the overtime spigot was turned on and off. On the other hand, as John Maynard Keynes said, "In the long run, we are all dead." Hiring more people helps but only well down the road. It takes many months to hire and train new employees. Once you finally put the new people to work, they make mistakes that more experienced employees have to sort out. In the short run, the backlogs seem to be growing, not shrinking as they usually do in the first two or three months after the agency gets its appropriation.
What is the situation with the overtime-new employee balance at Social Security? What's the strategy? How consistent is it across the agency?