March 14, 2008
Jo Anne Barnhart will discuss the challenges facing Social Security today. The retirement of the baby boomers and the looming financial shortfall combined with the growing workload, disability backlog, and under-funding for staff and administration put policy makers at a crossroads with difficult decisions to be made. The future of this critically important domestic social program –providing benefits and service to the public -- lies in the balance.
Jo Anne Barnhart, as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (2001-2007), had responsibility for administering a budget of over $550 billion, a staff of 65,000, and 1,500 offices nationwide providing retirement, survivors, and disability programs as well as the Supplemental Security Income program. When she completed her term of office in 2007, she was the longest serving woman and third longest serving commissioner in agency history. During her tenure, the agency developed and implemented an electronic disability system for accepting and processing claims and associated medical evidence. Within one year of implementation, Social Security was the largest repository of medical records in the world. Prior to her post at Social Security, Jo Anne worked for more than 20 years in a variety of legislative and executive branch jobs including Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and Minority Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. She also owned and managed her own political and public policy consulting company and served on the Social Security Advisory Board for four years. A graduate of the University of Delaware, Jo Anne was born in Memphis, Tennessee.