The National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA), an organization of Social Security's management personnel, has issued its December 2014 newsletter. Here's an excerpt from the President's Corner column:
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, the wheels started coming off [at Social Security] as FOs [Field Offices] and TSCs [Teleservice Centers] went into a deep hiring freeze, with virtually no hiring for three and a half years. In addition, in FY 2011 and FY 2013, the hours FOs were open to the public were reduced by about 23% ... All of this was occurring as demands for our services increased due to baby boomers retiring and filing for disability.
Consequently, SSA’s waiting times went up, on average 50%, to levels never before seen. The average time to get an appointment increased to a month or more, while many FOs ran out of appointments each day and calendars were often extended to the maximum of 60 days.
The agency’s telephone answering rates dropped dramatically, with many FOs below 50%. TSC answering rates also took a dramatic drop and in FY 2014, with a decreased answering rate of 54%, callers waited, on average, 22 minutes to speak with a Teleservice Service Representative (TSR).
Fortunately, FOs and TSCs were allowed to do a substantial amount of hiring in the second half of FY 2014, replacing about half of their staffing losses. SSA’s service levels will not immediately improve because new hires must be trained and staff attrition continues. Much will depend on SSA’s ability to continue to hire as annual staffing losses neutralize hiring gains.