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Strengthening Social Security for millions of Americans

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More than 70 million people depend on Social Security benefits, and millions more reach out each year for other services like requesting a new Social Security card. At the same time, we’re experiencing an increasing number of customers, less operating funds per customer, and fewer employees. We’re working to provide our customers with the service they expect.

Path to improve customer service

Learn more about the recent agency accomplishments and solutions SecurityStat has helped to deploy. 

Serving more people with fewer staff

Line chart showing a slow and steady decline in staff over 25 years.  Beginning in 1999, SSA staff was nearly 60 thousand, peaked in 2010 at nearly 67 thousand, and in 2024 was at just over 50 thousand.  The line is over a background bar chart representing the total number of beneficiaries.  The bar chart shows steady yearly growth from just over 50 million beneficiaries in 1999 to over 80 million projected for 2029.

The chart illustrates the widening gap between staffing levels and the growing number of customers. We have fewer people working for Social Security than we've had in 27 years. In fiscal years 2017 through 2021, our separation rate averaged 7%. In fiscal year 2022, separations accounted for 10% of our workforce. Reductions in our staffing result in performance challenges. Our fiscal year 2023 total staff increased and fiscal year 2024 is expected to decrease because of the 2024 funding level. We continue to work towards rebuilding our workforce as the number of beneficiaries increases.  Please visit to learn more about staffing in the fiscal year 2025 President’s Budget.

Agency funding relative to spending on benefits

Combined bar and line chart showing a significant decline in available budget used to serve beneficiaries.  Between the years 2015 and 2018 administrative costs were just above 1.25% and then steadily decline with a projected 0.95% for fiscal year 2024.

The chart shows that we have less funding as a share of the amount of benefits we administer through 2024. This funding also supports our work providing Supplemental Security Income payments, and some work on behalf of Medicare.


As a result of these challenges, our current customer service performance doesn’t match our customer service goals.

Examples of current average wait times include:

  • 36 minutes for our national 800 number.
  • 229 days for an initial Disability decision.
  • 225 days for a Disability reconsideration decision.
  • 361 days for a hearing decision.

How we’re addressing these challenges

In February 2024, Commissioner Martin O’Malley launched “SecurityStat,” a performance measurement tool to help Social Security set goals, choose actions, and track progress in meeting these challenges. 

The SecurityStat process

For each SecurityStat challenge, we:

  • Set a strategic goal.
    The strategic goal should be bold and measurable. For example, one of our goals is to answer calls to our 800 number in an average of 12 minutes.

  • Drive leading actions.
    Certain actions will help us meet our strategic goals. For example, if we help people understand any next steps they have by sending clearer letters, we can reduce their need to call the 800 number. This would allow us to answer the calls we do get faster and provide better service on our 800 number. So, we plan to improve how we write to reduce the number of calls.

  • Track “Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)” over time.
    The KPIs tell us if our action plans are moving us toward our strategic goal. For example, are we getting fewer calls related to our letters? Did our average time to answer calls drop?

Key challenges

  • 800 number performance

    Answer calls within an average of 12 minutes by the end of fiscal year 2025 while increasing the percentage of calls answered.
  • Processing time for benefits

    Process 83% of Retirement, Survivor, or Medicare claims in time for payment at the earliest point due (or within 2 weeks of filing for benefits if filed too late for payment at the earliest point due).
  • Disability processing time

    Process initial disability claims within approximately 7 months (215 days) by the end of fiscal year 2025.
  • Disability appeals time

    Conduct disability determination appeals hearings and issue decisions within an end of year monthly (September) average processing time of 270 days in fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

SecurityStat progress highlight: Faster hearings times nationwide

One of our key goals is to lower the average processing time for Disability appeals to 270 days. The following charts highlight our significant progress in meeting this goal, propelled by strategic changes initiated through SecurityStat. Specifically, they show the wait times for each hearing office (HO).

Customers experienced slower hearing wait times in September 2023

Heat map of the United States showing the average hearing wait times in September 2023. The majority of hearing offices had an average wait time of 371 days or more and 29 hearing offices had a wait time higher than 556 days in September 2023.

In September 2023, it took us 458 days on average to complete a hearing, with none of our offices hitting the 270-day mark. This was our starting point, highlighting the challenge we faced.

Significantly improved hearing times as of April 2024

Heat map of the United States showing the average hearing wait times as of April 2024. The majority of hearing offices have an average wait time of less than 370 days, and 2 hearing offices have a wait time higher than 556 days.

Due to the strategic changes initiated through SecurityStat, we’ve reduced the average Disability appeals processing time down from 458 days to 347 days, with a growing number of offices achieving our goal of 270 days or less.

Open data and visualization dictionaries to be added in summer 2024.