Issue Position: Social Security
For more than seventy years, Social Security has provided a vital safety net for hard-working Americans. In Ohio, over 90% of our seniors receive Social Security with nearly half of them depending on benefits to stay above the poverty line. It's an important program for disabled workers and surviving family members, too, who are guaranteed monthly income through Social Security.
Social Security provides financial support on which American workers can rely. But as more and more Ohioans enter into retirement and count on the system for their disability benefits, I am working in the Senate and with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make sure it provides the service that Americans deserve.
There are more than 40,000 Ohioans waiting for a decision on whether they are eligible for disability benefits. The average case --which can require multiple appeals -- takes nearly two years to process, forcing far too many potential beneficiaries to put off doctor visits, miss bill payments, and fall into severe debt. There is no excuse for the government to provide such lousy service to people who have paid into the system their entire working lives.
One reason for the backlog is a critical shortage of staff and administrative funds in SSA field offices. I am pushing to increase funding for SSA to ensure offices can hire more staff to cope with the backlog and improve their services.
In an effort to bolster the efficiency and integrity of the system, I have met with SSA representatives regarding the long wait periods Ohioans are facing before their claims are processed. At my request, the SSA Inspector General investigated allegations that Ohio disability determination offices are using a quota system for the number of individuals who may have their claims approved. Recently, the SSA announced 15 new administrative law judges in Ohio -- 6 in Cincinnati, 6 in Cleveland, 2 in Columbus, and 1 in Dayton. I applaud this decision and will continue to support efforts such as these to reduce the unacceptable disability determination backlog in Ohio.
While it is critical that we work to better the system now, we must also keep in mind Social Security's long-term fiscal challenges. President Bush and others suggested the creation of individual accounts to transfer funds from the Trust Fund to the stock market, thus privatizing the system. This approach is a dangerous proposition, putting millions of workers' savings at risk. The wild drops in the stock market and the failures of our regulatory agencies demonstrate how bad an idea the Bush privatization would have been.
Social Security is one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's greatest legacies. To ensure that hard-working Ohioans can continue to rely on a financially secure retirement, the Social Security program will have to adapt to our nation's changing economy and changing demographics. I will continue to support reforms to strengthen Social Security without losing sight of its mission to provide well-deserved security to our senior citizens in their retirement.