Social Security advocates gathered on Capital Hill this week in an attempt to stop cuts to the program that serves almost all Americans.
Anxiety is growing over cuts to the Social Security program as the GOP will take control of Congress in January. Congress has been providing less money to the program than President Obama requested for the last few years.
From 2011 through 2013, the Social Security Administration received $2.7 billion less than Obama requested from Congress, although there was a small increase this year.
The Senate Special Committee said that field office staffing dropped 14% from 2011 to 2014. In March 2013, the SSA estimated that in one week, almost 12,000 visitors to SSA field offices had to wait more than two hours to be served.
Over the last three years, public hours at offices have been reduced by the equivalent of a full day each week, while wait times to the Social Security Administration’s 800 number averaged over 17 minutes, triple the average wait time of two years ago.
The Republican Congress is expected to force even more office closures and impose more cuts on the SSA’s budget, despite polls that show the public is against the cuts.
Republicans have said that the internet and automated phone service can take over as more offices are closed and workers are laid off. A poll released by the Social Security Works showed that 86% of Americans want as many or more field offices, and most prefer speaking with a person while dealing with the Social Security program over the internet or 800 service.
Social Security staffers are trained to understand the intricacies of the program, and many Americans who apply online may miss out on benefits or remain unaware of other options.
Voters under 30 dislike using web-based Social Security services even more than older voters, the poll found and Republican voters dislike the idea as much as others. Despite this, Republicans in Congress have continued cutting the White House’s budget requests for the SSA, even though the Social Security Administration’s budget is paid from the program’s own funds and does not contribute to the deficit.
Democrats have said too many candidates tried to distance themselves from President Obama during the mid-term elections, running campaigns that targeted women, Latinos and young people but failing to provide a clear, strong message on the economy.
Many Democrats have also said the party should have instead emphasized economic issues that would have resonated with voters, such as spending more money on roads, promoting early childhood education and increasing taxes on the wealthy.