The Social Security Administration has long struggled to provide efficient customer service.
Unfortunately, even though the agency received a $785 million budget increase for the 2023 fiscal year, the SSA expects that its service levels will continue to decline in the short term.
Why is the SSA struggling despite the budget increase?
The SSA budget increase of $785 million is a mere fraction of the $14.8 billion the agency requested from congress. While the new influx of money will be welcome, the SSA notes that about 75% of the new funding will be necessary to cover fixed cost increases for items like office space rent, postage and legally required cost-of-living adjustment for employee pay. The agency has also experienced years of underfunding and, during the pandemic, lost many valuable staff members.
What can SSA participants expect in the future?
SSA applicants and recipients can expect longer wait times on calls. Average wait times increased to 33 minutes in 2022, up from 14 minutes in the previous year. Next year, the SSA expects the average to be 35 minutes. The agency has plans to overhaul an aging phone system and is working on training new staff. However, callers are not likely to see improvements until the fall of 2023.
Those applying for disability benefits may also experience longer wait times on benefits decisions. This is true for both initial applicants and those seeking to appeal agency decisions. Significant case backlogs and short staffing means that initial disability claims may take about seven months to process. Hearings on appeals for disability may take as long as 15 months.
While filing for Social Security benefits, and especially SSDI benefits, has always been a struggle, unfortunately, participants can expect the application and appeal process to be especially challenging in the coming months.