The Social Security Administration has canceled overtime for most employees, effective immediately, based on a decision made after talks between SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue and the Office of Management and Budget. (COLIN KELLY / STAFF)
The Social Security Administration has canceled overtime for most employees, effective immediately, according to a message from the agency's top finance official.
The only exception is for overtime "directly related" to life, safety and preservation of property, Deputy Commissioner Michael Gallagher said in a Friday e-mail. The decision was the result of discussions earlier that day between Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue and the Office of Management and Budget, Gallagher said.
With the agency's 2011 budget still in limbo, Gallagher did not say how long the freeze could last. He could not be reached for more information Monday.
At the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents some 53,000 Social Security employees, National Council President Witold Skwierczynski said the decision cancels both paid overtime and comp time, and will mean larger claims backlogs and longer wait times for the public.
At some facilities, Skwierczynski said, "they rely on overtime to do their work." Skwierczynski provided Federal Times with a copy of Gallagher's memo.
Astrue last week told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that SSA's front-line employees depend on overtime to keep up with their work.
Based on the Obama administration's fiscal 2011 budget request, for example, the agency expected about 3,200 work years to come from overtime, versus some 68,800 from full-time equivalents.
Congress, however, has yet to act on the administration's request. As is true throughout the federal government, more than five months into fiscal 2011, the Social Security Administration has been working under a series of stopgap spending resolutions that generally leave funding at last year's levels. A House-passed bill would further cut the agency's budget by $625 million in comparison with last year. President Obama has threatened a veto, but Astrue last week said that services would suffer even if funding stays at last year's benchmark.
Besides reducing or ending overtime, Astrue said, the agency will continue and likely expand a partial hiring freeze begun last July. The agency is also negotiating with AFGE over the terms of possible employee furloughs in the event of a government shutdown. While the union has made an offer, the agency has yet to respond with a counteroffer, Skwierczynski said Monday.