Federal Employees News Digest
AFGE: Social Security hiring freeze cuts experts
- By Nathan Abse
- Sep 02, 2019
In July, the Social Security Administration implemented a partial hiring freeze—and the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents thousands at the agency, is questioning the rationale behind the move.
Noting that SSA suffers from an “already understaffed workforce,” the union said in a statement that the freeze already has “made it increasingly difficult for auditors in the Office of Analytics, Oversight, and Review to do their jobs and meet legal and congressional obligations.”
“Critics are wondering if this is the administration’s backdoor effort to get rid of experts, just like it did at the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” the union said.
“The stress and the work is so demanding. We really used to be at about 1,400 employees nationwide, now we’re down to maybe 1,000 nationwide,” Earl Tucker, president of AFGE Council 224, said. “We’re short-staffed as it is, and the workloads are getting bigger. People just get fed up and they leave.”
Tucker noted that his unit—which was not large in the first place—had already lost over 70 employees by the end of July in the current fiscal year.
The union stated the situation simply: “With fewer people to do the work, the public will suffer, as will the few remaining employees left to accomplish their mission.”
SSA auditors are “routinely engage with SSA beneficiaries, often redeveloping cases from the beginning to the end to confirm that recipients are receiving the proper funds,” the union noted. Auditors do quality reviews of programs and make sure that retirement, disability and other programs are providing correctly calculated amounts to the correctly vetted recipients. Included in the scope of their work is reviewing approximately half of the disability cases filed in individual states—with reviews required of some 50,000 cases per year.
And these already heavy workload requirements are continuing to grow, even as the hiring freeze is limiting the agency’s available personnel to handle them. For example, at the Dallas office, the union notes, administrators have announced plans to grow case assignments to SSA staff by fully one-quarter.
“When we’re pushing people to produce more, to produce more, they’re really not allowing people enough time to do quality work,” Tucker said. “What you’re going to find is, they’re just going to sign it and move on.”
The SSA hiring freeze only applies to certain components of the agency.