Finding Value—and my Social Security—in light of Budget Cuts

January 9, 2017 • By

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Last Updated: November 3, 2023

man and woman on computerEvery payday, you have Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and Self-Employed Contributions Act (SECA) taxes deducted from your paycheck. Nearly all of these contributions are used to pay Social Security benefits to more than 60 million retired, disabled, and widowed workers and their children, as well as to Medicare beneficiaries. A very small amount also helps pay for the work it takes to manage Social Security programs.

Providing Social Security services to the public is a big job. We have fewer than 64,000 employees in offices across the country handling millions of transactions yearly — taking applications, answering questions in person and on the phone, verifying benefit amounts, and reviewing appeals, among other things. The cost of doing these services is less than one penny out of each dollar paid in FICA and SECA taxes, which is a very good value.

Lawmakers in Congress decide each year how much money we can use to manage our programs and pay our staff. Because that hasn’t been settled yet, we’re operating under a continuing resolution (CR) with less funding than last year. This is not new for us. In fact, the amount we have to run our programs is 10 percent lower than it was in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. At the same time, the number of beneficiaries we serve has gone up by 13 percent. So, we have fewer resources to serve more people.

We made some difficult decisions because of these latest budget limits. During the past year, we began a hiring freeze that will reduce our staff to the lowest level since FY 2013. We use a lot less overtime now, which affects our ability to reduce critical backlogs. Over a million people are waiting for a hearing to see if they are eligible for disability benefits.

Today, we are taking another cost-saving step. We will mail fewer paper Social Security Statements. Paper Statements will only be sent to people age 60 and over, who are not getting benefits and don’t have a my Social Security account. This will bring down the costs of processing and mailing paper Statements by $11.3 million in FY 2017.

We know that our cutbacks will affect many of you, but we have no choice. We will continue to serve you and work for you as best we can. Congress has until April 28, 2017, to pass a spending bill for the full year or pass another CR. While we can’t predict our budget level for the rest of the fiscal year, we think there may be more bumps in our journey together. We’ll do our best to get through them so you will have a secure today and tomorrow.

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About the Author

Doug Walker, Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


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  4. Robert

    it seems not that I am retiring that the personnel I have been dealing with have a poor attitude and I am not sure why. I had one hand the phone up on me for asking her name. I had another that took my documents give me some wrong information resulting in a denial for retirement and now I have to appeal. It seems like they have lost their professionalism and the customer service is poor. I have yet gotten my problem solved as they seem to lose documents or the ones I give them do not get to where they are suppose to. I just hope to get this over with as it is causing some severe anxiety issues when they just don’t seem to care. They won’t even make appts anymore with makes it bad for them and the customers. Just bad overall attitudes with all the reps I have had to deal with.

    • Ray F.

      Hello Robert. We apologize and regret to hear that we did not provide the level of customer service you expected. You can always request to speak with the local office manager to see how we can help to expedite resolution of your situation. Remember, most Social Security business does not require a visit to a local field office. Many services, including applying for retirement, disability and Medicare benefits, are conveniently available anytime at our website. Or, you can also call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) for assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later in the week. Thanks!

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  6. Lethia M.

    I was wondering if my ex husband got married again and he passes away will his first wife get a widows check.

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Lethia. A surviving divorced spouse, could get the same benefits as a widow, provided that the marriage lasted 10 years or more.

      • Anonymous

        I have asked this questioned so many times but I could not get the direct answer or the right one . I was married for 25 yrs to this person and divorced for 21 . I never remarried but he did . Somebody told me , that I have a choice to received his SS since his is higher than mine . So which is the right answer . He is alive and well and retired .Thank you for your help .

        • Anonymous

          Once again , I am being ignored .

        • Ray F.

          We try responding to as many questions and comments as possible, we apologize if we missed your question in the past.
          You could still be eligible for benefits as a Divorced Spouse, even if your ex-husband remarries.
          If you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record and divorced spouse’s benefits, we will pay the retirement benefit first. If the benefit on your ex-spouse’s record is higher, you will get an additional amount on your ex-spouse’s record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount. Also, if your birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists. If you file for one benefit, you will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits.
          See “What do the Recent Claiming Changes Mean for Me?” for more information.
          For specific questions, you may call us at 1-800-772-1213, representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Or contact your local Social Security office directly.

  7. Lethia M.

    I was wondering if my ex husband got married again and he passes away will his first wife get a widows check

  8. Yong V.

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