Social Security Opens National Hearing Center
Center Will Help Speed Disability Decisions
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that the agency’s National Hearing Center (NHC) is open for business. The NHC is one of the many steps the agency has taken this year to address the backlog of disability cases at the hearing level. Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Frank Cristaudo presided over the first hearing from the NHC in Falls Church, Virginia using electronic video technology. The claimant and the claimant’s representative took part in the hearing from a hearing office in Cleveland, Ohio.
“The National Hearing Center allows us to capitalize on new technologies such as electronic disability folders and video teleconferencing,” Commissioner Astrue said. “The Center will give us needed flexibility to address the country’s worst backlogs.”
At present, the agency has allotted seven ALJs to the NHC. The NHC ALJs will initially hear cases for the Atlanta, Cleveland and Detroit hearing offices -- areas of the country where the wait for a hearing can be two years or more. Additional ALJs may be added over time to provide the NHC with the capability to assist more offices.
Social Security’s backlog of disability cases is well documented. Currently, there are about 750,000 cases awaiting a hearing -- a number that has more than doubled in this decade. In May 2007, Commissioner Astrue presented Congress with a four part plan to address the backlog. His testimony is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_052307.htm.
“When it comes to addressing the disability backlog, there is no single magic bullet,” Astrue said. “The National Hearing Center is another important step we can take to provide the American public with the service they deserve.”
To view the agency’s plan to reduce the hearings backlog, as well as current and planned initiatives to improve the disability process go to www.socialsecurity.gov/hearingsbacklog.pdf.
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Social Security Holds First Disability Hearing on Compassionate Allowances
Experts’ Testimony on Evaluating Rare Diseases Available on www.socialsecurity.gov
The Social Security Administration is making statements from its two-day public hearing with some of the nation’s leading experts on rare diseases available online at www.socialsecurity.gov. The experts presented testimony and shared their views about Social Security’s efforts to identify and implement “compassionate allowances” for children and adults with rare diseases.
“We need to identify and fast-track disability cases that are certain or near-certain to be allowed,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “The compassionate allowances initiative will allow the Social Security Administration to make decisions on cases involving certain categories of conditions in days or weeks instead of months or years.”
Compassionate allowances are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably qualify under Social Security’s Listing of Impairments based on minimal objective medical information. Compassionate allowances will let Social Security quickly target the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that can be obtained quickly. Many of these claims can be allowed based on confirmation of the diagnosis alone; for example, acute leukemia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and pancreatic cancer. In these cases, allowances can be made as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed or the other necessary objective medical evidence is obtained.
This hearing, held on December 4th and 5th in Washington, D.C., is the first of four public hearings that Social Security plans to hold over the next year.
Please go to www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances for testimony from many of the rare disease experts and a photo gallery of the hearing.
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Social Security Improves Service and Expands Outreach to Wounded Veterans
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today highlighted the agency’s efforts to improve service and reach out to wounded veterans. “On Sunday, we honor America’s veterans whose love of country, willingness to serve and sacrifice ensures the many freedoms we enjoy today,” Commissioner Astrue said. “While we can never fully repay them for their sacrifices, we can be sure we provide them with the quality of service and the respect they so richly deserve.”
Commissioner Astrue highlighted a number of activities Social Security has undertaken in the last several months to improve service and expand outreach to wounded veterans and their families. These include:
- Expedited processing of disability claims for men and women serving in the U.S. military who become disabled while on active duty. The expedited process is for military service members disabled on or after October 1, 2001, and is applicable regardless of where the disability occurs. Social Security also expedites survivors claims.
- Development of an easy-to-use website - www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans/ - that provides information about Social Security and military service. The website also includes a link to apply for disability benefits online.
- An agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the VA to electronically provide Social Security with the medical records of veterans applying for disability benefits. This agreement enables us to get medical records quicker and more efficiently and helps us expedite the disability determination.
- Assigning Social Security liaisons throughout the country to work closely with VA’s Transition Patient Advocates (TPAs). Social Security’s liaisons provide TPAs with Social Security information and ensure that the application for benefits is expedited.
- Instructions and extensive training for our disability examiners -- the people who make the medical decisions on our disability claims -- on how to properly identify and evaluate Traumatic Brain Injury, the signature injury of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
- A fact sheet that provides information about Social Security and military service and explains how to apply for Social Security benefits. The fact sheet has been distributed to all branches of the military service, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and other interested groups.
- An active presence at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Evans Army Medical Center and numerous other treatment facilities throughout the U.S. For example, Social Security employees are onsite every week at Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke and other facilities to take disability applications and ensure expeditious handling of the case.
- Coordinated efforts with organizations such as the Severely Injured Marines and Sailors and Wounded Warriors Project to address concerns and facilitate open communications regarding the processing of Social Security claims.
“The Social Security Administration is proud to have within its ranks many people who have honorably served -- or are presently serving -- their country in uniform,” Commissioner Astrue said. “Let me assure veterans and their families that the dedicated men and women of Social Security stand ready to help them in any way they can, and that we will continue to look for ways to improve our service to those who have given so much in defense of our freedom.”
To learn more about Social Security benefits for wounded veterans go to www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans/. For general information about Social Security, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.
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Social Security Updates Digestive Listings
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that the Social Security Administration published new rules that update its medical listings for people filing for disability benefits based on digestive disorders, including diseases of the liver, stomach and colon. Social Security’s medical listings are one of the key elements used in determining whether or not someone qualifies for disability benefits. The new rules are a key step in the Commissioner’s initiative to update and improve the medical listings used to evaluate people with disabilities. For the first time, the agency will use a composite of quantitative measures to ensure that people with severe liver disease receive benefits far more quickly than in the past.
“Social Security’s disability examiners are working with digestive listings that do not accurately reflect advances in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders,” Commissioner Astrue said. “As a result many cases that should be resolved quickly are not being determined appropriately. The changes to our digestive listings are among the many steps we are taking in our effort to bring about accurate allowances for people who apply for Social Security disability.”
The changes to the digestive listings reflect state of the art advances in medical knowledge, treatment, and methods of evaluating digestive disorders and Social Security’s own program experience. In addition, Social Security has developed a new disability calculator tool that will be used for the evaluation of chronic liver disease in adults and children. This tool is the first of its kind used by the agency to help evaluate whether or not someone qualifies for disability.
“By improving our listings and predictors for digestive disorders, we can more appropriately identify those individuals who should qualify for disability benefits,” Commissioner Astrue noted. “Making these types of updates is one of the ways we can improve our service to the American people.”
While the agency is expanding its listings to include more digestive impairments, it is also removing some prior listings that no longer appropriately identify individuals who are disabled -- for example, the listing for peptic ulcer disease, which is rarely disabling. To learn more about the effects of various digestive disorders, please visit www.health.nih.gov. To learn more about Social Security’s disability program visit www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
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Social Security Announces 2.3 Percent Benefit Increase for 2008
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 54 million Americans will increase 2.3 percent in 2008, the Social Security Administration announced today.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), from the third quarter of the prior year to the corresponding period of the current year. This year's increase in the CPI-W was 2.3 percent.
The 2.3 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that nearly 50 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2008. Increased payments to more than 7 million Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will begin on December 31.
Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $102,000 from $97,500. Of the estimated 164 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2008, nearly 12 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.
Information about Medicare changes for 2008 can be found at www.cms.hhs.gov.
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NOTE TO CORRESPONDENTS: A fact sheet showing the effect of the various automatic adjustments is attached.
Nation's First Baby Boomer Files for Social Security Retirement Benefits -- Online!
At an event hosted by Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, the nation's first Baby Boomer, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, today filed for her Social Security retirement benefits online at www.socialsecurity.gov. Ms. Casey-Kirschling, who was born one second after midnight on January 1, 1946, will be eligible for benefits beginning January 2008.
“I know how important Social Security benefits are to Americans of all walks of life,” Commissioner Astrue said. “Today, Kathy has reached a personal milestone – she has made the transition from the workforce to retirement. I could not be more pleased that she has chosen to make this transition by filing for her benefits online.” To find out what Social Security services are available online go to www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.
As the nation’s first Baby Boomer, Ms. Casey-Kirschling is leading what is often referred to as America’s silver tsunami. Over the next two decades, nearly 80 million Americans will become eligible for Social Security benefits, more than 10,000 per day. To prepare for this wave of new filers, Social Security has developed a wide range of online services.
“Filing for Social Security benefits online is easy and convenient,” said Ms. Casey-Kirschling. “I urge my fellow Baby Boomers to give Social Security’s online services a try. Save a trip and do business with Social Security from the comfort of your home or office.”
Social Security’s online services are convenient and secure. In The Federal American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Scorecard, Social Security’s online benefit application has the highest score among all federal websites followed closely by Social Security’s application for extra help with Medicare drug costs. ACSI notes “Their respective scores of 88 and 87 put them in the elite company of online private sector satisfaction leaders like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.”
“Social Security provides economic protection to millions of Americans and their families,” Commissioner Astrue said. “And we remain committed to providing the public with the highest quality service possible. Boomers have always been a generation of trendsetters. Kathy is leading the way by doing business with Social Security online.”
To view the event, click here. [Disclaimer]
Social Security Administration Attacks Disability Backlog
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that the Social Security Administration had made progress in the 2007 fiscal year (FY) toward making faster decisions on disability claims.
“Better systems and business processes were essential to the progress we made in 2007,” Commissioner Astrue said, “but we cannot overlook the tens of thousands of overtime hours put in by the hardworking men and women of the Social Security Administration.”
Commissioner Astrue highlighted the progress made in a number of significant areas:
Social Security issued a final rule on September 5, 2007 extending nationwide its Quick Disability Determination (QDD) process. Under QDD, a predictive model analyzes specific elements of data within the electronic claims file to identify claims where there is a high potential that the claimant is disabled and where evidence of the person’s allegations can be quickly and easily obtained. In New England, where the process was being tested, about 3 percent of all new cases were identified as QDD cases and processed in an average of 11 days. Today, Arizona, New Jersey and North Dakota have started using QDD as part of a staged national roll-out that will be completed early next year.
The Social Security Administration also virtually eliminated its backlog of FY 2007 “aged” disability hearings cases. “Aged” cases, defined as cases pending 1,000 days or more, were reduced from 63,770 cases at the beginning of FY 2007 to 108 cases at the end of September.
To build upon this progress, the agency will redefine “aged” cases as cases pending for at least 900 days and will again attempt to resolve all of these cases by the end of the fiscal year.
The time it takes to process initial disability claims declined 6.3 percent from 88.4 days in FY 2006 to 82.8 days in FY 2007.
Another accomplishment was that Social Security slowed the growth in its pending disability hearings cases by approximately fifty percent. While the overall number of cases pending at the hearing level increased from 715,568 cases to 746,744 cases, the increase of 31,176 cases was about half of the annual increase the agency has typically recorded in this decade.
As another key part of its plan, the Social Security Administration is establishing a National Hearing Center (NHC) so that a centralized cadre of Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) can use video hearing technology to hear cases in the most backlogged parts of the country. The technology now is in place, and the recruiting process for the first NHC judges has begun. The agency also plans to hire about 150 ALJs and some additional hearing office support staff in the spring of 2008 – the only new hiring in FY 2008 as the agency continues to contract through attrition due to many years of congressional budget cuts far below what the President has requested.
“Our goal is to build upon this year’s achievements and, with the support of Congress, continue to improve the service we provide to millions of disabled Americans,” said Commissioner Astrue. “Without adequate support from Congress, however, we will not be able to make further progress – and we may even lose ground.”
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Commissioner Astrue Extends Social Security's Quick Disability Determination Nationwide
Final Rule Will Accelerate Benefits to Those Deemed Clearly Disabled
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that Social Security has issued a final regulation to extend the quick disability determination (QDD) process to all State disability determination services. Under QDD, a predictive model analyzes specific elements of data within the electronic claims file to identify claims where there is a high potential that the claimant is disabled and where evidence of the person’s allegations can be quickly and easily obtained.
“The quick disability determination has been very successful and efficient so far in New England and I am happy to say it will help people filing for disability benefits anywhere in the United States. This is a very important step we are taking at Social Security to improve our disability programs,” Commissioner Astrue said. “I also am proud of our improvements with pending disability cases that have reached 1,000 days waiting for an appeal hearing. We have aggressively worked on these cases and now have fewer than 600 pending, down from more than 63,000 cases in October of last year.”
Social Security currently receives more than 2.5 million new Social Security disability cases and more than 2.3 million Supplemental Security Income cases each year. In New England, where QDD began on a test basis, cases constituted slightly less than 3 percent of all new cases. Of those, 97 percent of the cases identified have been decided within 21 days and the average decision time is 11 days. Since the model does not yet incorporate as many diseases as it can, Commissioner Astrue has committed to expanding the number of cases that can be identified while maintaining the same level of accuracy.
“The length of time many people wait for a disability decision is unacceptable,” Commissioner Astrue said. “I am committed to a process that is as fair and speedy as possible. While there is no single magic bullet, with better systems, better business processes and better ways of fast-tracking targeted cases, we can greatly improve the service we provide this vulnerable population.”
The final regulation is effective as of September 5, 2007, and will be gradually implemented over the next several months. For more information about Social Security’s disability programs, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
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Social Security Expedites Survivors and Disability Applications for Military Service Members
On Memorial Day a grateful nation remembers those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country and give people of other nations the same fundamental human rights we enjoy. The Social Security Administration honors the heroism and courage of America’s military service members, and mourns the terrible losses incurred by war.
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, wants active duty personnel and their families to know that Social Security has procedures in place to expedite survivors applications and disability claims that apply to any injured military service member, regardless of where the injury occurred.
“I want to assure the brave men and women of our Armed Forces and their families that they will not have to wait for these needed benefits,” said Commissioner Astrue. “The special process is just one way Social Security can show our military personnel how much we appreciate their service.”
For people applying for survivors benefits using Social Security’s toll-free 800 number --
1-800-772-1213 -- there is a specially-dedicated immediate claims taking unit that processes an application at the time of contact. Those applications received in a local Social Security office also are expedited and given priority handling.
For Social Security disability applications, the agency’s goal is to schedule an appointment within three working days of the initial telephone call, or to have the local office call the service member within two days to start the disability process. Disability claims filed online at www.socialsecurity.gov also are expedited. Once the application for Social Security disability benefits is received, it is uniquely identified as a military service member claim, and it is expedited through all phases of processing, both in Social Security and the state Disability Determination Service, where the medical decision is made.
This direct and immediate assistance applies to military service members who become disabled in the line of duty on or after October 1, 2001. The expedited process is invoked regardless of where the disability occurred, whether in the United States, Iraq, Afghanistan, or on other foreign soil during active military service.
For more information about Social Security survivors and disability benefits, please go to www.socialsecurity.gov or call
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Social Security Presents America's Favorite Baby Names for 2006:
Emily and Jacob Maintain their Streaks; Elvis still Lives
This Mother’s Day, show someone you love how much you care
In what has become a Mother’s Day tradition, Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the top baby names in the United States for 2006.
“Based on more than 4.2 million Social Security card applications for children born last year, mothers and fathers have picked Emily and Jacob as the most popular baby names for the eighth year in a row,” said Commissioner Astrue. “I invite everybody to visit our website to view the new list and for Mother’s Day to check to see if their loved ones qualify for the Medicare extra help program.”
Please click on the Most Popular Baby Names link at Social Security’s website -- www.socialsecurity.gov -- to see the top baby names for 2006. The top ten boys and girls names for 2006 are:
Emily has been the most popular female name each year since 1996. Jacob has been the top male name since 1999. Sophia is new to the top ten for the first time and William returns after a one year absence. Elvis lives on at number 761.
In addition to a list of the 1,000 most popular baby names for 2006, there is a list of the most popular baby names for each state. Also, there is a list of the top 100 names for twins born in 2006. Jacob and Joshua are again the most popular twin’s names.
Social Security started compiling baby name lists in 1997. Today, the Social Security website offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880.
This Mother’s Day, show someone you love how much you care
This Mother’s Day, Social Security is showing people how they can help their loved ones get assistance with their Medicare prescription drug costs. Extra help can pay part of the monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments.
“The high cost of medicine can be a burden on people who have limited income and resources,” Astrue said. “This Mother’s Day show someone you love how much you care. Tell your loved ones about the extra help that is available to pay part of their Medicare prescription drug costs and then help them apply. The extra help could be worth more than $3,000 per year.”
To find out if a loved one is eligible, Social Security will need to know their income and the value of their savings, investments and real estate (other than the home they live in). To qualify for the extra help, they must be receiving Medicare and have:
- Income limited to $15,315 for an individual or $20,535 for a married couple living together. Even if their annual income is higher, they still may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. Some examples where income may be higher include if they or their spouse:
- Support other family members who live with them;
- Have earnings from work; or
- Live in Alaska or Hawaii; and
- Resources limited to $11,710 for an individual or $23,410 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds. Social Security does not count their house and car as resources.
Social Security has an easy-to-use online application at www.socialsecurity.gov that anyone -- family members, friends and caregivers -- can complete. People can also apply by phone at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit their local Social Security office.
To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE 1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).
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Social Security Board of Trustees Issues Annual Report
Long-Range Financing Challenges Continue
The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds. The 2007 Trustees Report shows slight improvement in the projected financial status of the Social Security program from last year.
In the 2007 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:
The projected point at which tax revenues will fall below program costs comes in 2017 -- the same as the estimate in last year’s report.
The projected point at which the Trust Funds will be exhausted comes in 2041 -- one year later than the projection in last year’s report.
The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 1.95 percent of taxable payroll -- .06 percentage point smaller than in last year’s report.
Over the 75-year period, the Trust Funds would require additional revenue equivalent to $4.7 trillion in today’s dollars to pay all scheduled benefits. This unfunded obligation is about $100 billion higher than the amount estimated last year.
“Social Security provides valuable economic protection to workers and their families. We owe it to the American public to continue to offer the best possible support for older Americans, people with disabilities and their families in the coming decades,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “The Trustees Report is an important tool for those in the legislative and executive branches who will have to make the very difficult decisions about how best to ensure Social Security remains viable for the long term.”
Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:
Income including interest to the combined Old-Age and Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds amounted to $745 billion ($626 billion in net contributions, $17 billion from taxation of benefits and $102 billion in interest) in 2006.
Total expenditures from the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $555 billion in 2006.
The assets of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by about $190 billion in 2006 to a total of $2 trillion.
During 2006, an estimated 162 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
Social Security paid benefits of $546 billion in calendar year 2006. There were 49 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
The cost of $5.3 billion to administer the program in 2006 was a very low 1.0 percent of total expenditures.
The combined Trust Fund assets earned interest at an effective annual rate of 5.3 percent.
The Board of Trustees is comprised of six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Henry M. Paulson,
Jr., Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee;
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security; Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustees are John L. Palmer and Thomas R. Saving.
The 2007 Trustees Report will be posted at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/TR07/ by Monday afternoon.
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Social Security Rated One of the 'Best Places to Work in the Federal Government'
Score Highlights Agency as Most Improved
The Social Security Administration ranks as one of the top ten “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” according to The Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation. The ranking not only identified Social Security as one of the “Best Places to Work,” but also the most improved agency this year.
“I’m very pleased that this score reflects what many of us already know: Social Security is a great place to work,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “It is my sincere hope that anyone thinking about a career in public service will seriously consider Social Security.”
The “Best Places to Work” rankings are based on the results of the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Human Viewpoint Survey, a government-wide assessment of federal employees’ job satisfaction and perceptions of their agency’s human capital efforts. The survey identified effective leadership and skills-to-mission match as the biggest drivers of overall employee satisfaction and engagement.
Social Security attributes its success to:
- linking human capital management programs to the Agency’s missions,
- building a diverse and productive workforce,
- using high standards for recruitment, and
- maintaining a wide array of development programs and other employee-friendly programs.
“Social Security has a workforce of dedicated, talented, and well-trained employees,” said Commissioner Astrue. “We need to continue to hire and retain the best and the brightest for the future.”
To learn more about careers with the Social Security Administration, please go to: www.socialsecurity.gov/careers.
To learn more about the report, please go to: www.bestplacestowork.org.
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Statement of Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, Regarding the Agency's Fiscal Year 2007 Budget
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today issued the following statement regarding the agency’s Fiscal Year 2007 Budget:
“President Bush has signed the Fiscal Year 2007 Continuing Appropriations Resolution that includes annual funding for the Social Security Administration. The good news is the $9.3 billion allocation includes sufficient funds to avoid employee furloughs, which were a real possibility if the agency had to operate at funding levels considered by Congress earlier in the year.
“The resolution is an increase of about $185 million for Social Security’s administrative expenses when compared to the agency’s FY 2006 appropriation. However, it is a reduction of about $200 million when compared to the FY 2007 budget President Bush requested for the agency.
“I want to thank the Administration and Members of Congress who worked to ensure our employees could continue to serve the people who depend on Social Security. I am confident that Social Security employees will continue to do all that they can to provide the public with the service they need.”
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Michael J. Astrue Sworn In As Commissioner Of Social Security
Michael J. Astrue was sworn in today as the Commissioner of Social Security at the agency’s national headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. He will serve a six-year term that expires on January 19, 2013.
Commissioner Astrue expressed his gratitude at being chosen to serve as Commissioner. "I have seen first-hand the important work this Agency does and the essential protection it provides to the most vulnerable in our society," Astrue said. "I feel blessed to have been asked to serve in a position so vital to our success as a nation."
Commissioner Astrue has a distinguished history of public service. He is a former employee of the Social Security Administration, having served as Counselor to the Commissioner during the Reagan administration. He also has served as General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation. More recently, he served as a senior executive of several biotechnology companies.
Commissioner Astrue will be responsible for administering the Social Security retirement, disability and survivors insurance programs that pay approximately $580 billion annually in benefits to more than 49 million beneficiaries, as well as the Supplemental Security Income program that provides cash assistance to more than 7 million people with limited income and assets. The agency has a national workforce of about 62,000 employees and 1,500 facilities throughout the U.S.
“My goal is to be a good steward of the Social Security program for both current and future beneficiaries,” Astrue stated. “For current beneficiaries, this means setting high standards for management, performance and service—and committing to meeting those standards. For future beneficiaries, this means engaging with the executive branch, with Members of Congress, and with outside groups and experts, to provide unbiased data about all the options for safeguarding the financial stability of the program.”
Born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and a resident of Belmont, Massachusetts, Commissioner Astrue received his bachelor's degree from Yale University and his J. D. from Harvard University. He and his wife Laura have two children.
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Additional information is available about