From the prepared remarks of Marianna Laconfora, the Acting Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, at the Senate Finance Committee hearing today:
During FYs 2011 - 2013, our budget situation was severe . For 3 years in a row, we received nearly a billion dollars less than the President’s budget request. Over those years, we had to make some deep reductions in our services to the public and in our stewardship efforts, while still meeting our mission and serving the public as best as possible . We took the following actions.
We significantly limited hiring, with only minimal hiring in critical front - line areas;
Reduced the hours that our field offices are open to the public to allow us to complete late - day interviews without using overtime and to complete retirement and disability claims and other post - entitlement work;
Operated with minimal, non - personnel spending, only funding our most essential costs, such as mandatory contracts, guard services, and rent on our buildings;
Closed over 500 contact stations and 7 foreign service posts;
Increased our use of video hearings to improve service and lower travel costs ;
Suspended our lower priority notices and reduced the number of Social Security Statements issued; and
Provided more information online to reduce printing and mailing costs .
As a result of significantly limited hiring, wait times in field offices increased, callers to our 800 Number had to wait longer to speak with a representative, and hearings processing time increased. In addition, we were not able to ramp up our cost-effective program integrity efforts as planned.
We are pleased that we received additional resources in FY 2014, and we thank you for your support. As a result, we are able to begin the recovery efforts from 3 years of underfunding. However, it will take time to reverse the impact on service s from the years of underfunding. It is critical that we receive the level of funding requested for our agency in the President’s FY 2015 Budget.