The leadership of Social Security has changed recently. President Biden dismissed Trump administration appointment Commissioner Andrew Saul in 2021. Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi has been the acting commissioner of Social Security ever since.
The president has now nominated Martin O’Malley, a former governor of Maryland, to conclude Saul’s unfinished term as director of the Social Security Administration (SSA), which runs until January 19, 2025. O’Malley made an appearance at a U.S. confirmation hearing. last week’s Senate Committee on Finance. Additionally, he discussed some of the major adjustments he wishes to see made to Social Security.
Speaking preparedly, he introduced the U.S. In its lengthy history, Social Security has paid benefits to beneficiaries “with a high degree of accuracy,” according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman O’Malley. “But today, for all its historic strengths, we must acknowledge that Social Security faces a customer service crisis,” he continued.
O’Malley gave a few instances of customer service issues with the government program. He mentioned that the average wait time for seniors contacting the SSA’s toll-free assistance line is 37 minutes. According to the former governor of Maryland, those who file for Social Security disability payments must wait an average of 220 days for a decision, and in rare cases, they may have to wait up to two years.
Poor customer service like this is “not acceptable,” according to O’Malley. He stated before the Senate committee that it ought to be simple for citizens to meet in person with Social Security officials.
O’Malley mentioned his experience in enhancing organizations from his time as governor and mayor. But he made a hint about what he thought was the root of Social Security’s customer service difficulties early on in his prepared remarks. He said, “The truth is, today, the Social Security Administration is serving a 50% increase in beneficiary customers with the same levels of staffing they had in 1995.”
In recent months, there has been a great deal of bad press surrounding the SSA’s efforts to recoup overpayments to recipients. When numerous Senate Finance Committee members questioned O’Malley about his opinions on this matter, they voiced concerns.
He said, “It’s been heartbreaking reading some of these stories” concerning individuals who were the focus of SSA overpayment clawbacks. O’Malley felt particularly sorry for those who were in debt “through no fault of their own” and for whom the Social Security Administration had not appeared to consider their unique situation.
Additionally, the Biden nominee made special reference to Social Security’s efforts to recoup overpayments for COVID-19 relief. Such attempts, he declared, were “an outrage.”
O’Malley promised to address these issues. The members of the Senate committee heard him say, “We have to do a better job of recognizing the justice at stake in each of these individual cases.”
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) questioned O’Malley over the SSA’s wealth limits for recipients. These caps, which are presently $2,000 for single people and $3,000 for married couples, haven’t been raised to account for inflation in many years.
O’Malley concurred that these restrictions were “a huge administrative burden” for the SSA and were “a leading cause” of the overpayment issues.
Additionally, he said that legislation raising the asset restrictions “would absolutely reduce the huge administrative burden that Social Security has to go through, in addition to being the right thing to do for the recipients and the right policy.”
One obvious issue that O’Malley, if approved as Social Security Commissioner, will be powerless to resolve on his own is keeping Social Security from going bankrupt. Social Security’s overpayment and customer service issues are nothing compared to this situation.
When O’Malley spoke before the Senate committee, he addressed the issue that was causing problems. He asserted that Congress should enact measures to keep Social Security solvent. Additionally, he pledged to back efforts by both parties to strengthen the program’s funding.
The phrase “Social Security is running out of money” refers to the approaching depletion of the program’s trust funds. According to the most recent Social Security Trustees Report, unless the government modifies the program, the trust funds will run out in 2035. Otherwise, it will only be able to provide around 80% of the advantages that are planned.
The United States’ shifting demographics are the reason trust funds are currently so low. With over 70 million of them still living today, the baby boomer generation is one of the largest. The Social Security trust funds were heavily financed throughout their youth by the Social Security levies they paid on their earnings.
Numerous baby boomers have, however, retired. They’ll all be 65 or older by 2030. There haven’t been as many children in younger generations. As a result, fewer workers are contributing to Social Security and more elderly than ever are receiving benefits from it. Some of the excess monies in the trust funds have had to be used by the government to guarantee that all seniors get their payments. However, that is not a long-term viable solution.