CBO says similar bill would cost Social Security Administration $9 billion over 10 years to administer

October 11, 2011

Washington—In a letter to their colleagues, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Ranking Member of the Human Resources Subcommittee, and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, Chairman of the House Hispanic Caucus, voiced their strong opposition to Rep. Lamar Smith’s attempt to make the Electronic Verification Program, or E-Verify, mandatory because of the undue burden it would place on retirees, widows, and people with a disability who rely on the Social Security Administration (SSA) at a time when the effects of Republican cuts to the SSA’s operating budget are just starting to become clear.  They writes that while the Department of Homeland Security would administer E-Verify, SSA takes on the bulk of the verification responsibilities because it must individually verify the name, Social Security number, date of birth, and citizenship status of every worker in the country whose employer participates in E-Verify. In addition, the SSA must also assist workers with correcting their records when there are errors, an extremely time consuming process that often involves multiple in-person visits to SSA field offices. 

During a hearing in April, the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security found that after 2 years of Democratic investments in SSA’s operating budget, the average wait time for an initial disability determination was still more than 3 months, while the average wait time for a hearing was about 350 days. This means that in many cases disabled members of the community are waiting over a year before they have an opportunity to have their case heard before a judge. Now, with Republican budget cuts to the SSA’s operating budget beginning to take effect, wait times are already starting to climb again.

“The E-Verify program as it exists today is far from satisfactory,” said Rep. Doggett.  “To make this system mandatory for all businesses hiring new employees is a mistake and a costly one at that.  SSA is already dealing with the impact of Republican budget cuts.  To ask the SSA to bear the burden of administering this flawed program is a mistake that would cost our retirees, our widows, and folks living with disabilities dearly. We need comprehensive immigration reform—and this is far from it.”

“At a time when Republicans are already imposing drastic cuts to Social Security Administration’s budget, our country cannot afford a mandatory flawed employer verification system that would require the Social Security Administration to spend most of their time and resources to perform background checks rather than helping America’s seniors, disabled, and others who depend on Social Security benefits for their health and well being,” said Rep. Gonzalez.

In analyzing the budgetary impact of a bill similar to that of Rep. Smith, the Congressional Budget Office in 2008 determined that cost to the SAA of requiring verification of all employees would total nearly $9 billion over ten years. This would come at a time when SSA is already facing a $955 million shortfall in its administrative budget for FY2011, forcing it to institute a hiring freeze, reduce field office hours, close 300 field offices and contact stations, and suspend mailing annual earnings statements to workers. In addition, the SSA’s budget office has said that for every $25 million their FY2012 operating budget is reduced below its current level, they would be forced to furlough workers and close Social Security offices for a day, delaying the processing of approximately 19,000 retirement claims, 11,000 initial disability claims, and 3,000 hearings.

[Full text of letter below]

We write to bring to your attention strong concerns voiced by our friends at AARP regarding the excessive burden that would be imposed upon retirees, widows, and people with a disability who rely on the Social Security Administration (SSA), should the Electronic Employment Verification Program, also known as E-Verify, become mandatory as Rep. Lamar Smith is demanding. While the Department of Homeland Security administers E-Verify, SSA takes on the bulk of the verification responsibilities because it must individually verify the name, Social Security number, date of birth, and citizenship status of every worker in the country whose employer participates in E-Verify.  In addition, the SSA must also assist workers with correcting their records when there are errors, an extremely time consuming process that often involves multiple in-person visits to SSA field offices.


The current E-Verify system is voluntary and far from satisfactory. The new E-Verify legislation would make this system mandatory for all businesses hiring new employees. The Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing last April aimed at identifying costs and collateral damage to Social Security if it were to be assigned this additional responsibility. The Committee found that after 2 years of Democratic investments in SSA’s operating budget, the average wait time for an initial disability determination was still more than 3 months, while the average wait time for a hearing was about 350 days. This means that in many cases disabled members of our community are waiting over a year before they have an opportunity to have their case heard before a judge. Now, with Republican budget cuts to the SSA’s operating budget beginning to take effect, wait times are already starting to climb again.


In analyzing the budgetary impact of a bill similar to that of Mr. Smith, the Congressional Budget Office in 2008 determined that cost to the SAA of requiring verification of all employees would total nearly $9 billion over ten years. This would come at a time when SSA is already facing a $955 million shortfall in its administrative budget for FY2011, forcing it to institute a hiring freeze, reduce field office hours, close 300 field offices and contact stations, and suspend mailing annual earnings statements to workers. In addition, the SSA’s budget office has said that for every $25 million their FY2012 operating budget is reduced below its current level, they would be forced to furlough workers and close Social Security offices for a day, delaying the processing of approximately 19,000 retirement claims, 11,000 initial disability claims, and 3,000 hearings.


We should avoid creating more delays for our seniors, the disabled, and many others who depend on Social Security. A mandatory E-Verify system would undoubtedly result in an increase in SSA’s already heavy administrative burden and create greater backlogs, further hindering SSA’s ability to fulfill its primary mission to serve retirees, widows, and those with disability.


Requiring the SSA to take on a new function that will detract from its essential work of serving Social Security beneficiaries is unacceptable. We urge our colleagues to review the attached letter from AARP about this important issue.

 

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