Social Security pays out about $1 trillion in annual benefits to beneficiaries; but those who need help typically find that the telephone system doesn’t work – often even disconnecting people after 15 minutes on hold. Some people spend hours on hold without anyone ever picking up!
This isn’t new. The problem has been growing. Social Security has acquired 21% more beneficiaries since 2010 – a rise from 54 million to 65 million, according to Alison Weir, a staff attorney and policy advocate at Greater Hartford Legal Aid in New Haven, Connecticut who spoke at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee on May 17th. What’s more, approximately 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for retirement benefits every day.
According to Weir, between 2008 and 2021, more than 100,000 people died while awaiting decisions on disability benefits.
Ingrid Case, writing for Financial Planning, notes that Social Security now has 60,000 workers – it’s lowest staff level in 25 years. Part of the reason is the closing of 67 field offices during the pandemic. Nearly all are open again; however only about half of the workforce is physically present.
Typical of government, of course, it’s hard to fire poor performers – that can require years of documentation. That’s compounded by hiring freezes and limited budgets.
There is proposed legislation to address many of these issues, according to Case; however, a budget watchdog group dropped its support, so that may not be going anywhere until the group feels the proposed fixes get more serious.
Does this mean Social Security will be going broke? Not likely. But, that’s another story.