Mail Management:

Improved Social Security Mail Management Could Reduce Postage Costs

GGD-91-34: Published: Feb 13, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effectiveness of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) mail management program.

GAO found that: (1) SSA initiated such mail cost reduction measures as presorting its beneficiary checks and some computer-generated mailings through the Department of the Treasury's Financial Management Service, private printing contractors, and presorting services; (2) such measures reduced SSA postage costs by almost $16 million, or about 15 percent of the first-class mail costs for selected programs, in fiscal year (FY) 1989; (3) SSA did not take advantage of other cost reduction opportunities that could have resulted in additional postage discounts amounting to $5.3 million; (4) missed opportunities included using a nine-digit zone improvement program (ZIP) code (ZIP+4) on first-class computer-generated mail, presorting first-class computer-generated mail from large volume mailing locations, and printing a barcode on outgoing mail where applicable; (5) SSA overstatement of anticipated postage costs resulted in overpayments to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS); and (6) SSA did not have a sound multiyear mail management plan for making management improvements.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should reconcile actual postage costs with USPS within the time period established by USPS.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA is reducing the time it takes to reconcile actual postage with USPS.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should develop and implement procedures to more accurately estimate postage costs to avoid overpayments to USPS.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA performs a comprehensive review of estimated postage cost to more accurately estimate postage costs to avoid overpayments to USPS.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should develop and implement specific plans to presort, add ZIP+4, and barcode computer-generated, first-class outgoing mail from large volume mailing locations where cost beneficial.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA, through the use of the Department of the Treasury, will be presorting, using ZIP+4, and barcoding its mail in FY 1991.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should integrate ZIP code software into all SSA systems to take full advantage of postage discounts.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ZIP code software was added to the files affecting 18.7 million benefit payment checks as of March 1991. Other data files have been targeted for completion during FY 1991.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should develop and implement a multiyear mail management plan to guide SSA mail management efforts.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA mail management officials drafted a multiyear plan in October 1992. However, a USPS change on "penalty mail" has required revision of the plan. The plan is now complete and this recommendation can be closed.

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