Social Security applicants and recipients know well that the administration has struggled for years to provide adequate customer service.
For the 2023 fiscal year, the Social Security Administration received a $785 million budget increase. However, while the SSA hopes the money will help with current issues, in the short term customer service levels may continue to decline.
Why is the SSA struggling despite a budget increase?
The $785 million the SSA received is only a small fraction of the amount the agency requested from Congress: $14.8 billion. Due to years of underfunding and the loss of many valuable staff members during the pandemic, the SSA expects that most of the money it did receive will be necessary for covering basic operational costs.
How will funding impact customer service calls?
In the short term, SSA participants can expect longer wait times on calls. In addition to training new staff, the agency must overhaul an aging phone system. In 2022 the SSA saw average call wait times increase to 33 minutes compared to 14 minutes in 2021. In 2023, the agency expects that number to rise to an average of 35 minutes.
What about applications and other benefits decisions?
SSA participants can also expect longer wait times on benefits decisions. Both initial applicants and individuals appealing agency decisions may find the process especially lengthy in the coming months.
According to the Agency, it may take around seven months to approve or disapprove initial disability claims and as long as 15 months to complete hearings on appeals for disability benefits.