GAO's Views on the Report of the Congressional Panel on Social Security Organization

Published: Jul 30, 1984. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 1984.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO cited some of the key Social Security Administration (SSA) problems which it has identified over the years and addressed the extent to which these problems were caused by SSA or others. In addition, GAO views on recommendations in the report of the Congressional Panel on Social Security Organization were given. During the past 10 years, SSA has had problems in making accurate and timely payments to eligible beneficiaries. These problems have been caused by: (1) increased reliance on manual processing due to the heavy demands for automatic data processing (ADP) resources; (2) outdated ADP equipment and software deficiencies; (3) voluminous and poor quality instructions to field staff; (4) frequent turnover and slow filling of key top-level positions; and (5) frequent reorganizations. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has imposed a hiring freeze on SSA, the General Services Administration has been slow in securing adequate office space, and the Office of Personnel Management has been unable to provide a list of qualified personnel for SSA recruitment. GAO found that the Panel did an excellent job attempting to achieve some separation of the policy issues surrounding the social security program from the management of SSA; however, achieving the goal of efficient SSA management is less certain. GAO supported the Panel's recommendations that: (1) SSA be headed by a single administrator with a fixed term; (2) Medicare and Medicaid not be included in the new social security agency; (3) delegations of specific management authorities be given to an independent agency for ADP procurement, personnel management, and administrative services; (4) SSA be allowed to submit its budget biannually; (5) certain long-term projects be funded for the life of the projects, but only after financial controls have been deemed to be adequate; and (6) SSA requests in its budget submissions be based on a work force plan rather than on arbitrary personnel ceilings.

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