Larson Opening Statement at Social Security Subcommittee Hearing on Challenges Facing the SSA after over Five Years of Acting Commissioners
(As prepared for delivery)
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today’s hearing. Social Security needs a Senate-confirmed Commissioner, but after 14 months in office the President hasn’t even named a nominee. It is my hope that the President will act without delay to nominate a qualified candidate.
Social Security reaches almost every family, and at some point, touches the lives of nearly all Americans. And yet we have no indication of when or who he will nominate, making Social Security the largest major agency without a nominee to lead it. But Social Security isn’t alone: the President has failed to make a nomination for one-third of over 600 key federal positions requiring Senate confirmation.
The President needs to act, so that we can turn to our real work: making sure Social Security can do its job serving the American public, and how best to strengthen Social Security benefits. For example, I think we should hold a hearing on my bill, the Social Security 2100 Act. It’s time to expand the most successful program in American history.
We also need to recognize that even with a Senate-confirmed commissioner, Social Security will continue to face serious problems. In recent years, Social Security hasn’t been provided the resources it needs in order to pay everyone’s benefits on time and in the correct amount, conduct appeals hearings, and respond to inquiries from the public. The number of Americans receiving Social Security has climbed by 8 million (15 percent) – and the aging of the baby boomer into retirement is going to continue for years to come.
Each day, nearly 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for their earned Social Security benefits. And instead of providing Social Security with adequate resources, the agency’s core operating budget has been cut by 11 percent from 2010 to 2017, after adjusting for inflation.
How can we be surprised that Social Security’s service delivery suffers as a consequence of these budgetary constraints? SSA’s national 800-number cannot keep up with the number of Americans calling with questions or a need for help resolving a problem – half of callers hang up before connecting. If you apply for disability benefits you better be able to wait… years. Not days, not months – but years. Disabled workers have to wait on average 605 days for an appeals hearing. And in many parts of the country the average wait time is even longer.
The passage of the recent budget caps deal offers us a chance to provide more resources to Social Security. We can put funds to where they are needed most and allow Social Security to start reducing wait times across the board.
Our constituents expect better – and they deserve more. Americans should be able to receive the benefits they have earned on time.
On March 1, 2018, Ways and Means Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA), Social Security Subcommittee Ranking Member John B. Larson (D-CT), and Human Resources Subcommittee Ranking Member Danny K. Davis (D-IL) sent a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies to urge the Committee to provide the Social Security Administration with at least $560 million in FY 2018 over FY 2017 funding.
Full text of the letter is available HERE.