In the 2023 proposed fiscal-year budget, President Joe Biden's administration is attempting to allocate about $14.8 billion to the Social Security Administration (SSA), which oversees the Social Security program for nearly 70 million Americans. That would be a $1.8 billion increase, or nearly 14%, from the SSA's budget in fiscal year 2022.
But the president's budget proposal is really just the beginning of the budget process. Before the budget can get approved, both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives will need to review and approve their own versions of the budget and then merge them into one.
Needless to say, a lot can change during this time, so how likely is Biden's proposed 14% increase for the SSA to get approved?
What the extra money would go to
The additional $1.8 billion for the SSA would be in discretionary funding and go toward improving the SSA's operations. Specifically, the majority of the funding increase ($1.6 billion) would go toward streamlining the SSA's services and helping the agency process various claims more efficiently.
That involves spreading out the money among SSA field and telecommunications offices and investing in initiatives that would lower customer wait times, increase outreach, create an easier application process, implement better technology, and expand access to customer service both online and through phone service.
The remaining $224 million of the $1.8 billion increase would be put toward creating better checks and balances at the SSA. That way, the agency will be better able to investigate fraud and ensure that qualified retirees who are actually eligible for Social Security are getting the right benefits.
Where things are
With no budget expected to be in place by the time fiscal year 2023 begins on Oct. 1, which is not an uncommon occurrence, Congress will have to pass what is called a continuing resolution to keep the government open.
As explained in a blog post by Kathleen Romig, the director of Social Security and disability policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, when there is a continuing resolution agencies are typically funded at the same level as the prior fiscal year.
However, continuing resolutions can incorporate some "anomaly" provisions, and the Biden administration has actually included a provision in the proposed continuing resolution that would add about $800 million to the SSA's operating budget. This is $1 billion less than Biden's proposed increase, but perhaps the rest of the increase will be allotted if and when Congress passes a budget later on.
This temporary increase could be enough to let the SSA address some of its more pressing needs. Customer service wait times have ballooned in recent years, and those seeking disability benefits sometimes face long delays before getting final decisions from the agency.
Will the SSA eventually get its 14% increase?
It's expected that Congress will pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 16, which will kick full budget discussions down the road. But that would also give the SSA the additional $800 million of spending authority sooner rather than later unless there is a sudden change.
However, it's coming down to the wire. Members of Congress could end up debating some potential unrelated attachments to the continuing resolution, so I'd keep an eye on this one until everything is final.