Social Security:

Opportunities To Improve Productivity at Program Service Centers

GGD-87-54: Published: May 22, 1987. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined productivity at six Social Security Administration (SSA) program service centers (PSC).

SSA management recognized the need to improve and institutionalize productivity and required PSC directors to conduct at least one new project a year, which was quantifiable in terms of monetary or work-year savings, to improve productivity. However, GAO found that the productivity variations among PSC indicated needed improvements in productivity management, specifically: (1) managerial responsibility for setting and meeting productivity improvement goals; (2) meaningful measures to assess performance and facilitate needed improvements; and (3) procedures to identify ways to reduce costs and improve operations. GAO concluded that management could make greater use of existing performance data to enhance PSC productivity efforts and save costs by utilizing opportunities for folderless processing and implementing local computer applications at all PSC.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA has begun a major initiative to implement folderless processing. The project also involves reducing: (1) the number of documents in claims files; (2) inactive folder storage; and (3) folder access and movement. SSA reports that action control has been implemented in six service centers, and new case control software has been developed to support the new environment.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to ensure that beneficiary records folders are not retrieved and forwarded to benefit and claims authorizers for actions which do not require the use of folders.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA is designing a system for identifying targets of opportunity for improvement. Currently, the system is being implemented in field offices, but has yet to be expanded to cover PSC. SSA reports that it is now using data which compares productivity between organizations as a means of identifying work-load practices which need to be changed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to use existing productivity data to: (1) identify which organizational elements are operating inefficiently and which products those organizational elements are inefficiently processing; and (2) expand employee involvement in the productivity effort by encouraging maximum employee participation and interest.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation overlaps a similar recommendation from the SSA General Management Review (GAO/HRD-87-39). Continuing follow-up efforts on this assignment should be terminated.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to develop and apply productivity measures at the module level so that module managers are held accountable for achieving specific productivity improvement goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA believes that better data are needed from its management information system, and such improved data will not be available until fiscal year (FY) 1992. A 6-month pilot is scheduled to begin in the first quarter, FY 1993.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to hold managers accountable for achieving specific productivity improvement goals through establishing such goals in merit pay plans and Senior Executive Service (SES) contracts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA has established an ongoing system of compiling software program listings from each PSC, and is making the information available among all of the centers.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to require the expanded use of locally developed computer programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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