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Social Security Commissioner Warns of Painful Cuts

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Elderly Americans would suffer considerably under proposed Social Security Administration budget cuts outlined in House Republicans' continuing resolution, the head of the agency warned Wednesday as budget-related disputes continue to flare on Capitol Hill.

The House GOP budget proposal that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year yanks $125 million from the SSA's current levels and $500 million from the reserve fund.

The cuts could cost 3,500 employees their jobs, affecting the quality and quantity of services to Americans, SSA Commissioner Michael J. Astrue testified in Washington.

"I regret we may not be able to keep our commitment to the American people because we don't have the necessary support to move forward," Astrue said Wednesday at a Senate subcommittee hearing. "We cannot meet our stewardship duties unless Congress provides us the funds to do the job."

Democrats who are against the cuts echoed his concern.

"Social Security is the centerpiece of America's social safety net," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "Delaying basic services isn't just bad for the economy, it's devastating to the most vulnerable citizens who depend on them."

Concerns about the burgeoning budget deficit and its long-term implications have brought new scrutiny to entitlement programs such Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Economists and experts agree that Social Security needs to be fixed immediately to keep future generations from losing out on an important benefit. But neither President Obama nor members of Congress has put forth any concrete proposals.

The president has acknowledged the need to overhaul entitlement programs and says he welcomes proposals, but Republicans argue that Obama should take the lead.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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