The ongoing budget impasse means at least a temporary end to paid overtime for federal workers processing Social Security benefits and applications.
The Social Security Administration is suspending the use of overtime pay except for duties directly related to “life/safety/preservation of property” concerns, according to the agency.
Michael G. Gallagher, the agency’s deputy commissioner for budget, finance and management, informed workers of the decision in a memo sent late Friday. The decision stems from budget discussions between the SSA and Office of Management and Budget, he said.
Workers in the field spend the bulk of their time interviewing clients in person or on the phone about their Social Security accounts or applications, according to Witold Skwierczynski, president of AFGE Council 220, which represents SSA employees nationwide. Much of the follow up adjudication work is completed on overtime, he said.
Workers represented by AFGE are paid hourly and must be paid overtime for working more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours per week.
“Eliminating overtime will cause adjudication backlogs,” Skwierczynski said Tuesday. “This means longer processing times and claims backlogs. If employees are assigned to do adjudication work instead of interviewing, this will cause longer wait times for in office traffic and phone calls that won’t get through to an employee.”
“The decision was based on the uncertainty of our budget situation,” Mark Lassiter, an SSA spokesman, said in an e-mail. “We hope to be able to resume overtime depending on Congressional action on our final budget.”
The agency is preparing for hundreds of millions of dollars in potential cuts as budget negotiations continue. SSA will suspend the opening of eight hearing offices and a new teleservice center and will close 300 contact stations, Social Security Administrator Michael J. Astrue told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee last week. Closing contact stations — essentially donated space in hospitals, nursing homes and libraries where SSA employees meet with customers on scheduled days — could mean less access for Americans in small towns far from regional offices, Skwierczynski said.
Agency officials are also negotiating with Skwierczynski regarding possible furloughs if a full-scale government shutdown occurs as part of the budget negotiations.
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