Social Security’s Service Collapse

For the over 66 million people who receive Social Security benefits, the most important part of the relationship is when they receive or are wired their monthly benefits. Not so, say a new study. Social Security provides several customer relationship services, which have started falling apart. Without more funding from the federal government, the problem will get worse.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently released its “Social Security Administration Needs Additional Funding to Avoid Exacerbating Customer Service Crisis.” Among its conclusions is that the staff of the Social Security Administration has dropped 16% since 2010, and this year, its customer services budget is down 17% at the same time. Over the same period, the number of recipients increased by 22%. The paper does not point out that as Baby Boomers age, the number of recipients will skyrocket, increasing customer service trouble.

Some of the drop in service capacity is because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social Security has over 1,400 offices. Social Security pay freezes have caused many employees to leave.

Staff at offices is not the only problem. Social Security receives tens of thousands of calls yearly to fix recipient problems. According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, phone call wait times have soared to 40 minutes.

Budget cuts will almost certainly make the service problems worse. This may be inevitable as the federal deficit grows.

The disintegration of service only adds insult to injury. The Social Security Administration will run out of money as early as 2033. While this does not mean payments will go to zero, they will start falling. While this may not be a problem for people in their 70s and 80s, the generation paying into the fund today may find their benefits much less than expected.

(Also read: these are fascinating facts people don’t know about social security.)

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