Colorado Republican Representative Lauren Boebert was harshly criticized after she accused the Social Security Administration (SSA) of low productivity and falsely asserted that the agency is not "underfunded."
Boebert scoffed at the SSA's telework policies, accusing the agency of permitting "delinquent employees to sit on their sofas at home" instead of working efficiently.
However, Oren “Hank” McKnelly, the executive counselor for the SSA, promptly clarified and detailed the monitoring of SSA employees' performances, emphasizing the agency's real-time oversight of their work, whether from the office or remotely.
McKnelly highlighted that employees are required to remain "accessible" during work hours to supervisors, clients, and colleagues, countering Boebert's allegations. He also took her to task after she pressed on about the increasing backlogs for Social Security applicants.
You can see their exchange in the video below.
After Boebert pushed her false narrative, insisting that the SSA's productivity is "unacceptable," McKnelly gave the following response:
"Our employees are subject to the same performance management processes and oversight they are whether they're teleworking or working in an office and we have systems in place that our managers use to schedule, assign and track workloads."
"And that includes individual employee workloads in many cases, so real time understanding of what actions are being processed at any particular given time."
Boebert then questioned McKnelly about the existing SSA backlog, likely referring to data showing that over 1 million Americans are waiting on the SSA to process their disability claims, which can take an average of 220 days to be decided.
"Then why is the backlog for Social Security applicants increased from 41,000 to 107 hundred thousand?"
McKnelly pointed out that the SSA has "been historically underfunded for a number of years now," though Boebert dismissed this well-known fact, falsely claiming that the agency has been "funded at the Nancy Pelosi levels, at the Democrat levels" in a hit at her political opposition.
After Boebert likened this supposed funding to “pandemic-level spending"—a jab at efforts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic—McKnelly pointed out her bad math and shut her down entirely:
“So I’d say we’d have an increase of over 8 million beneficiaries over the last 10 years. At the same time, we experienced our lowest work staffing levels at the end of FY 22. That’s a math problem."
“I mean, that is a problem. If you have those workloads increasing and you don’t have the staff to take care of those workloads, you’re going to have the backlogs that you’re talking about, Representative.”
Many criticized Boebert's clueless remarks after footage of the exchange went viral.
Earlier this year, CNBC reported that amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, extended wait times for individuals seeking assistance from the SSA have become a pervasive issue, triggering congressional hearings in 2022 to address this growing concern.
During a panel organized by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), experts highlighted that beneficiaries phoning the agency's toll-free number often endure hold times exceeding 30 minutes.
AFGE, representing over 40,000 SSA employees, emphasized the prevalence of extended queues and reduced office hours at various field offices, limiting in-person assistance for beneficiaries. The union underscored that individuals applying for disability benefits experience delays of over six months in receiving decisions from the SSA.