Joe Biden’s Pick to Head Social Security Wants to Make These Changes

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Social Security’s leadership has been in flux in recent years. In 2021, President Biden fired then-Commissioner Andrew Saul, a Trump administration appointee. Since then, Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi has served as acting Social Security Commissioner.

The president has now put forward former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley as his nominee to complete Saul’s unfinished term heading the Social Security Administration (SSA), which extends through Jan. 19, 2025. O’Malley appeared at a confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance last week. And he talked about some of the key changes he wants to make to Social Security.

Improve Social Security’s customer service
In his prepared opening remarks to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, O’Malley said that throughout its long history, Social Security has never missed a benefit payment and has paid beneficiaries “with a high degree of accuracy.” He added, “But today, for all its historic strengths, we must acknowledge that Social Security faces a customer service crisis.”

O’Malley pointed out a couple of examples of the federal program’s customer service problems. He noted that seniors calling SSA’s toll-free support line must wait on hold for an average of 37 minutes. The former Maryland governor stated that individuals applying for Social Security disability benefits have to wait an average of 220 days for an initial decision — and they sometimes must wait as long as two years to appeal a decision.

This poor customer service experience is “not acceptable,” O’Malley said. He told the Senate committee that Americans should be able to easily get face-to-face meetings with Social Security employees.

O’Malley cited his background as a mayor and governor in improving organizations. However, he hinted early in his prepared remarks what he believes the underlying issue with Social Security’s customer service problems is. He stated, “The truth is, today, the Social Security Administration is serving a 50% increase in beneficiary customers with the same levels of staffing they had in 1995.”

Address Social Security overpayment clawbacks
SSA’s attempts to recover overpayments made to beneficiaries have received a lot of negative publicity in recent months. O’Malley was asked about his views on this topic by several members of the Senate Finance Committee, who expressed concerns.

He acknowledged, “It’s been heartbreaking reading some of these stories” about people who were targeted by SSA for overpayment clawbacks. O’Malley especially sympathized with individuals who owed money “through no fault of their own” and for whom SSA had not seemed to take into account their personal circumstances.

The Biden nominee also specifically mentioned Social Security’s actions to recover overpayments made related to COVID-19 relief. He called such attempts “an outrage.”

O’Malley committed to correcting these problems. He told the Senate committee members, “We have to do a better job of recognizing the justice at stake in each of these individual cases.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) questioned O’Malley about limits on the amount of assets that SSA allows beneficiaries to own. Those limits currently stand at $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for married couples and haven’t been adjusted for inflation in decades.

O’Malley agreed that these limits were “a leading cause” of the overpayment problems and represented “a huge administrative burden” for SSA. He also stated that legislation to increase the asset limits “would absolutely not only be the right thing to do for the recipients, the right policy, but would also reduce the huge administrative burden that Social Security has to go through.”

What Biden’s nominee can’t do about Social Security
If he’s confirmed as Social Security Commissioner, there’s one glaring thing that O’Malley can’t do anything about on his own: prevent Social Security from going insolvent. This issue makes Social Security’s customer service and overpayment problems pale in comparison.

O’Malley addressed the elephant in the room during his testimony before the Senate committee. He said that it was Congress’s job to pass legislation to help Social Security avoid insolvency. He also committed to supporting bipartisan efforts to bolster the program’s finances.

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Source: https://retire.ly/2023/11/09/joe-bidens-pick-to-head-social-security-wants-to-make-these-changes/#google_vignette



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