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Sequestration's mandatory budget cuts are scheduled to take effect tomorrow, March 1, 2013.

The press has reported that "Social Security will not be affected." This is not completely accurate. While it is true that the payment of benefits will not be affected, the sequestration cuts will affect all other aspects of the SSA, including the day-to-day operations of the agency, by reducing its administrative budget.

According to the SSA Fact Sheet (sorry, no link yet) on the effect of sequestration on SSA's operations, field office and hearing office operations will be impacted. SSA estimated that sequestration will result in longer waits in field offices and for the 800-number. Pending levels of initial disability claims are likely to rise, and claimants may have to wait about two weeks longer for an initial disability determination. Sequestration could result in the loss of over 5,000 SSA employees.

All this is in addition to the staffing problems that the field offices already have. There has been a hiring freeze for some time, so when an employee departs, that person is not replaced. Field offices are already closing to the public earlier (3:30 PM most days, and 12:00 noon on Wednesdays). My law office is just down the hall from the Saco, Maine Social Security office, and people are quite surprised to find a government office closed on a Wednesday afternoon.

At the hearing level, claimants may have to wait nearly a month longer for a hearing decision and the progress in reducing the hearings backlog would be eroded. While SSA will try to prioritize reductions to avoid furloughs, they still remain possible. 

Time will tell how much operations are impacted by the sequester.