SSA Benefit Estimate Statements:

Additional Data Needed to Improve Workload Management

HEHS-97-101: Published: May 20, 1997. Publicly Released: May 20, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Personal Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statements (PEBES) impact on the Social Security Administration's (SSA) work, focusing on how well SSA has prepared for the increasing workload resulting from implementing the PEBES requirements and whether SSA's PEBES management and performance could be improved.

GAO noted that: (1) SSA officials believe they will be able to handle the increasing work expected to result from the PEBES initiative; however, they lack enough information upon which to base this conclusion; (2) even though SSA has made two test mailings to estimate the effects of sending mandated statements and has more than 2 years' experience in mailing the PEBES, the agency has not collected reliable data on either the number of people who call or visit SSA with PEBES questions or the number of earnings corrections resulting from the PEBES mailings; (3) SSA could better manage the potential workload resulting from the PEBES initiative if it began now to collect more complete and accurate data on the effects of mailing the mandated statements; (4) with these data, the agency could monitor the volume of work, assess the adequacy of its implementation plans, and have an early warning of problems so that it could adjust its plans before service to the public would be impeded; (5) for example, if SSA would find that it needs additional staff to answer telephone calls, it may need lead time to install more telephones and train additional staff; (6) without adequate advance warning to complete these activities, callers may have to endure longer waiting times; and (7) moreover, better data on the reasons people call and the problems they are having with their PEBES would provide SSA with valuable information to help improve the statement.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SSA disagreed with this recommendation, stating that it believes it is already collecting sufficient information to monitor and manage its PEBES workload. Despite this, for several months in 1997, SSA collected more detailed information about the PEBES-related questions asked of SSA telephone representatives. In the fall of 1998, however, the toll free number specifically used for PEBES calls was merged with SSA's national toll free number. As a result, the systems previously used for collecting specific information related to PEBES inquiries are no longer in place.

    Recommendation: To better manage the PEBES initiative, SSA should systematically collect more detailed feedback from the workers who deal directly with the public on the number of and reasons for PEBES inquiries and more detailed information on the number of earnings corrections specifically linked to the PEBES mailings.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

 

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