President Biden is seeking to increase Social Security’s annual budget by nearly 10 percent -or $1.3 billion- in 2022.
The money would largely go to better customer service, which is badly needed for the agency. It’s not uncommon for claimants to tell me that it takes forever to get someone on the phone when they have a question for Social Security. Some offices seem to just never answer their phones. And they don’t pick up for attorneys either.
With the additional money, Social Security is hoping that it can hire additional staff that will bring the wait time for calls to its national 800 number down to 12 minutes from the current wait of 16 minutes.
The agency is also hoping that with more funding it could reduce the processing time for disability claims. Currently, the average wait time to get a decision is 386 days. With more staff, Social Security believes it could get that wait time down to 270 days in the next fiscal year. The agency is also aiming to triple the number of disability claims it reviews.
The higher budget would also go to increased community outreach and upgrading technology. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Social Security has moved an increasing number of services online, and now holds disability hearings over the phone or by video. It’s likely that at least some of these changes will continue for years to come.
Ultimately, the budget will have to be approved by Congress, so it’s currently unclear how much the agency’s budget will actually be increased next year.