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Health & Spirit

Social Security and You: Do You Really Want a Shrunken SSA?

Tom Margenau on

I sure am glad President Trump isn't considering me to be the new head of the Social Security Administration. What a thankless job! As about 10,000 people retire every day, and as thousands more file for disability and survivor benefits, the agency's workforce keeps dwindling. And it's going to get worse.

Trump considers it his mandate to shrink the size of government. Of course, almost every Republican legislator thinks the same. And since they are now running the country, the federal government, including SSA, is going to shrink.

I've made this following point many times in this column. So many Americans claim they want smaller government. But if my emails are any indication, what they really mean is they want smaller government for everyone else -- but not for themselves.

Here is an excerpt from an email I got yesterday. "I cannot believe that Obama changed a law that would deny me the right to claim Social Security benefits off of my wife's account while letting my own retirement continue to grow. I just hope Trump corrects this travesty while he's also kicking all those deadbeats off of the disability, welfare and food stamp rolls!" See what I mean? "More for me, but less for all those other people" is the mantra for so many Americans.

President Obama didn't change a law. But his administration did appropriately close a loophole that allowed mostly wealthy senior citizens to claim dependent spousal benefits on their husband's or wife's Social Security record while they delayed taking their own benefits until age 70, at which point they would get a 32 percent bonus added to their retirement checks.

I have written many times how allowing someone who had a job and qualifies for a Social Security pension to claim benefits as a "dependent" husband or wife on a spouse's Social Security account was a mockery of the basic tenets of Social Security. And it was costing the federal government tens of billions of dollars per year in extra payouts.

If this guy really thinks that Trump is going to reopen that loophole while he's "kicking all those deadbeats" off the government dole -- well, I've got a wall across the southern border of this country that I'd like to sell him!

OK, enough smarminess on my part. But my point still holds. So many people (oftentimes hypocritically) think the government is too big and needs to be shrunk in size. Well, it's happening.

The Trump administration has ordered the Social Security Administration (and almost all other government agencies) to downsize. At SSA, early retirement incentives have been offered to about 15,000 employees. That's one-fourth of the agency's total workforce of 62,000.

That's going to mean the closure of more local Social Security offices, which means fewer people available to answer the thousands of calls the agency gets every day. By far, the No. 1 complaint I hear from my readers is the overly long wait times when they call SSA's 800 number. Well, all I can say is: Get used to it.

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