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Now the administration is asking for more staff rather than less. Secretary Sullivan wrote OMB Director Darman in December, that SSA is, "experiencing workloads well in excess of those anticipated in the fiscal year 1991 appropriation."
Mr. Chairman, pending disability cases are growing at the same time that few continuing disability reviews are being done. Telephone busy rates exceed 50 percent on peak days. We commend Commissioner King for making SSI outreach a high priority. But SSI outreach, as well as other necessary outreach, will be constrained unless additional field staff is hired and trained.
These problems are just the tip of the iceberg. SSA must also comply with a number of new mandates from last year's reconciliation bill. Budget battles over Social Security and Medicare frequently obscure the impact of budget cuts on other discretionary programs under your subcommittee's jurisdiction.
According to a study by Chambers Associates, commissioned by the national committee, the President would cut Older Americans Act and low-income energy assistance below the current services' baseline. We urge you to hold the line on these cuts because discretionary programs affecting mostly seniors, have declined 55 percent in inflation adjusted dollars since 1980.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, you have always been a friend of seniors. We know that seniors can count on you to provide as much funding for these priorities as is possible.
Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF MAX RICHTMAN
I am Max Richtman, Executive Vice-President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Thank you for providing me the opportunity to express the views of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare on fiscal year 1992 appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services, especially Social Security administrative expenses. From time to time, our members, most of whom are senior citizens, express concerns about the quality of service in Social Security offices, the lack of accessibility to offices and poor response to telephone inquiries.
The National Committee appreciates the difficult decisions that the Appropriations Committee faces under the new restraints of last year's budget law, but we also recognize the urgent need to provide service to the 40 million Social Security beneficiaries and 130 million workers. The decisions that this subcommittee in particular makes affect many individuals. One decision the Committee shouldn't have to make is how to accommodate Social Security administrative expenses within the cap on domestic discretionary spending. Last year Congress acted to take Social Security out of the budget and all deficit calculations. Both benefits and administrative expenses are paid for out of the Social Security trust funds. Unfortunately, OMB includes Social Security administrative expenses under the domestic discretionary spending cap because the conference report listed them as part of the cap. Many of your colleagues in both houses agree that the intent of the law was to remove Social Security administrative expenses from the budget. The National Committee is also convinced that was the intent.
We would urge Congress to appropriate at least as much money as the Administration has requested for Social Security administrative expenses. Commissioner King, in testimony before the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee on February 21, indicated that she had originally requested almost $100 million more than the Administration's budget request. And Secretary Sullivan graphically described the consequences of not getting additional funding in a December letter to OMB Director Richard Darman, "At the level of resources provided (by OMB in the budget passback), SSA will see backlogs of disability claims double, increasing from
three to six months, busy rates on the 800 number will exceed 50 percent on peak days, processing of appeals would increase by two months, and SSA will have to reduce employment by 500 FTE.”
Since 1985, the Administration has made excessive cuts in both staff and resources. Staff has been cut from 80,000 to 63,000. SSA now has to make up for those excessive cuts. Now the Administration is asking for more staff rather than less. SSA is "experiencing workloads well in excess of those anticipated in the fiscal year 1991 appropriations," Secretary Sullivan wrote in December.
State Disability Determination Services have deteriorated significantly. Pending disability cases increased by over 94,000 in fiscal year 1990 and are expected to rise another 220,000 in fiscal year 1992. For the past three years, few continuing disability reviews have been done, potentially threatening the integrity of the program which Congress worked hard to restore in the 1980's. Many advocates question whether the recently passed supplemental appropriations will be sufficient to review at least 237,000 claims arising from the Supreme Court Zebley decision.
We commend Commissioner King for making SSI outreach a high priority. Outreach has usually been the responsibility of field representatives. The number of field representatives, however, has declined from 1,200 in 1985 to approximately 600 in 1990 at the same time that many of the remaining field representatives have been reassigned to claims representative case loads. Contact stations have also been reduced 34 percent between 1983 and 1988. These developments constrain SSI outreach as well as other necessary outreach unless additional field staff is hired and trained.
These problems are just the tip of the iceberg. From various sources we understand that local offices are even running out of informational pamphlets and basic supplies. SSA must also comply with a number of new mandates from last year's reconciliation bill. Three of the most important mandates are restoration of telephone access to local offices, reform of the administration of the representative payee program and readjudication of disabled widow claims.
Budget battles over Social Security and Medicare frequently obscure the impact of budget cuts on discretionary programs under the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee. According to a study by Chambers Associates commissioned by the National Committee, the President would cut Older Americans Act spending $58 million below a current services baseline. Other discretionary programs like low income energy assistance, which do not predominantly serve seniors, still serve a sig. nificant number of needy seniors. About one-third of the $656 million proposed cut in low income energy assistance will affect senior citizens. We hope that the Subcommittee can find additional money for these programs as well as new initiatives in areas such as preventive care.
We urge you to hold the line on further cuts because discretionary programs affecting mostly needy seniors have suffered significantly over the last ten years. Spending on discretionary programs affecting seniors has declined 55 percent in inflation adjusted dollars over the last ten years. Significant declines have occurred in programs under your Subcommittee's jurisdiction including Health Care Services Grants (42 percent), Low Income Energy Assistance (29 percent), Social Services Block Grants (22 percent), Older Americans Act (8 percent), and Senior Community Services Employment (4 percent).
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, you have always been a friend of seniors and we know that seniors can count on you to provide as much money for these priorities as possible given the constraints of last year's budget law. Thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the National Committee.
Senator HARKIN. Thank you very much for your testimony. You seem to be suggesting that, perhaps, the administrative cap, or the administrative expenses ought to be treated just the same as Social Security payments.
Mr. RICHTMAN. That is the position the national committee has taken. And by the way, that is the position many Senators and Members of the House have taken.
Senator HARKIN. That means that this subcommittee would give up its jurisdiction, obviously, over the administrative arm of the Social Security Administration.
Mr. RICHTMAN. Well, they would not be subject to the cap, that is correct.
Senator HARKIN. Well, they would not even be subject to us at all. They would just be an entitlement.
Mr. RICHTMAN. Well, I think that they are, as you know as the chairman of this subcommittee and as a U.S. Senator, there are a number of ways of being involved in the way those funds are used.
Senator HARKIN. Well, we have been fairly successful in keeping them from closing a lot of offices. And I am a little concerned that this entitlement will be after the fact. That we will be notified that they are closed, and I do not know that we will be able to do much about it. I am a little concerned about that area.
Mr. RICHTMAN. Well, I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman. One of the things we are concerned about in addition to what you have just said, is that there is inadequate funding for the administrative costs because of the position ÔMB has taken in putting these funds under the discretionary cap.
Senator HARKIN. Senator Gorton.
Senator GORTON. I have no questions at this time.
Senator HARKIN. Thank you very much, Mr. Richtman.
STATEMENT OF STEPHEN P. STRICKLAND, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PEACE INSTITUTE FOUNDATION
Senator HARKIN. Next, Dr. Steve Strickland, president of the National Peace Institute Foundation.
Dr. STRICKLAND. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Senator Gorton. Senator HARKIN. And again, your statement will be a part of the record in its entirety.
Dr. STRICKLAND. Thanks very much. And Senator, I will be very brief this morning.
You know, because you are one of the great friends in the Senate of the United States in the Congress, of the U.S. Institute of Peace, that this single agency of Government devoted exclusively to peacemaking and peace-building through research and analysis and public education and training of conflict resolvers, does extraordinarily important work. You know that its capacity has grown over the last 6 years since the Congress established it in 1984, and especially in the last 31⁄2 years since Ambassador Samuel Lewis has taken over as president.
You have my prepared statement, as you say, and in that, I site personal evidence, this year, of the important work of the Institute. I have just come back from the Soviet Union where I was in the Republic of Georgia on the day of the national referendum for independence, and where I was in Armenia. And I can tell you that work that the Institute on conflicts, ethnic, and cultural and historic boundary disputes, equipped me really, to get a good grasp of what was going on in those two countries in a very short period of time. I actually was there for more than 1 week in each one, but my time was better used and to better affect because of the work of the Institute.
I testify periodically before you, Senator, and each year, I do so with greater conviction. The Institute's work, started by Ambassador Lewis on the return of Eastern Europe to the Democratic
camp and the free-market economy community helped policymakers, 2 years ago, get a little bit ahead of the curve on how to respond to these remarkable and wonderful events. And I think next year, when they put their big emphasis on the Middle East, that their work is going to become increasingly apparent.
Ambassador Lewis told you a couple of weeks ago, that in fact, this program is being undertaken with the active encouragement of the policy planning staff of the State Department. In a way, that is a benchmark. Congressional committees and certain departments and offices of the State Department and other agencies of the Federal Government have used the work of the Institute in the past, but at this moment, the Institute is being actively sought after as a partner, as a provider of information. And I think, therefore, that is good testimony to the increasing relevance of the Institute.
We at the foundation consider ourselves the godparents of the U.S. Institute of Peace. As you know with the Peace Academy Campaign and our 50,000 members, we lobbied the Congress to establish it. And I must say we are increasingly proud godparents because we believe the work has become increasingly important, increasingly relevant. And we just hope that you will help the Institute secure what it needs for next year.
They are asking, as you know, for a little less than $12 million. Their authorized ceiling is $15 million. Every dollar of that will go to a good purpose. So I urge your most sympathetic consideration of this request.
[The statement follows:]
STATEMENT OF STEPHEN P. STRICKLAND
Mr. Chairman and the members of subcommittee, I come before you today representing the Board of Directors and the 15,000 members of the National Peace Institute Foundation, to urge your support for the 1992 appropriations request of the U.S. Institute of Peace. As members of the committee no doubt know, the Peace Foundation and its sister organization, the National Peace Academy Campaign, were the primary proponents of a government entity that would support peace through research, analysis and public education. We worked together for a decade to secure congressional establishment of the Institute, which finally occurred in 1984. So we at the Peace Foundation consider ourselves "godparents" of the Institute.
In fact, we have become increasingly proud godparents, just as our late, beloved friend Senator Spark Matsunaga was an increasingly proud parent. You know the leading roles which Senator Matsunaga and Senator Mark Hatfield played in creating the Institute. And I very much hope, Mr. Chairman, that you who have been such a stalwart friend of the Institute share our feeling of satisfaction with the way the agency has developed in the last several years, under the able leadership of its president, Ambassador Samuel Lewis.
One reason we testify so enthusiastically this year on behalf of the Institute's 1992 request is because the Institute has become an increasingly important resource to decision makers as they struggle to find right courses in peace building and peace making. For example, a special study group convened by Ambassador Lewis in 1989 dealing with the evolution of democracy in Eastern Europe helped policy makers get a little bit ahead of the curve in planning the U.S. response to the return of Eastern Europe to the community of democratic and market-economy nations. And the Institute's 1990 conference on "Conflict Resolution in the Post-Cold War Third World," scheduled before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and carried out before the U.S. and U.N. military involvement in the Persian Gulf, focused attention on both possible peaceable and possible martial responses to the recent aggression for the members of congress, the executive branch, the press, and research and policy analysis organizations who participated in that conference. The Institute's work on ethnic conflicts in various parts of the world, including in the Soviet Union, have pointed up and explained the reasons for the persistent and pervasive ethnic and religious factors in the seemingly endless dilemma of war, with its endless human tragedy.