On July 6, the House Appropriations Subcommittee voted to cut the Social Security Administration's (SSA) administrative budget by $263 million. Maryland Rep. Andy Harris voted for the cut.
On July 13 the full Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat, to increase the SSA administrative budget by $900 million to equal the president's budget request. Representative Harris voted against the amendment. SSA has informed the committee that the $263 million cut would lead to employee furloughs of up to 10 days, closing SSA offices to the public for those 10 days, a hiring freeze, a moratorium on all overtime, a reduction in hours that SSA offices are open to the public, permanent closing of some SSA field offices, a deterioration of phone and face-to-face service, and increased wait times and processing times for all workloads.
Mr. Harris voted to cripple SSA's ability to take and process claims and to monitor the public's benefits to ensure that they are paid correctly despite the fact that administrative expenses are only 0.7 percent of SSA's annual budget and that these administrative expenses are financed from the SSA trust fund that is running a surplus. Maryland Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger voted for the Quigley amendment that would provide the staffing and the resources that SSA needs to take and process claims and maintain the integrity of the payments.
Representative Harris' vote is a disservice to those SSA customers who paid FICA taxes their entire lives and deserve good and efficient service when they file for retirement, disability, survivors or Supplemental Security Income benefits. In addition, Representative Harris voted to furlough 11,295 SSA employees who live in Maryland and work at SSA Headquarters in Woodlawn and the numerous SSA field and hearing offices located throughout the state. Many SSA employees live in Representative Harris' district, and his vote to reduce the SSA budget would result in a 4 percent pay cut for SSA employees due to the furlough.
Congress is responsible for providing sufficient resources to federal agencies like SSA so that such agencies can provide the services that have been promised to the public. Votes to reduce funding for SSA, which is experiencing record workloads, are votes to break that promise. Thank you to Mr. Ruppersberger for understanding the needs of SSA. Shame on you to Mr. Harris for hurting both SSA customers and Maryland workers.
Witold Skwierczynski, Catonsville
The writer is president of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals.