Complete and Accurate Information Needed in Social Security's Automated Name and Number Files

HRD-82-18: Published: Apr 28, 1982. Publicly Released: May 5, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reported on the need for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to improve the information in its automated name and number files and to improve its social security number issuance process.

Some of the information in the SSA name and number files is incomplete, inconsistent, or inaccurate. These files are used by SSA in issuing social security numbers, claims processing, resolving discrepancies, verifying identification information, and carrying out other important functions. The name and number files should have only one individual associated with each number. However, the SSA number file has records that have the same number but the identifying information does not appear to represent the same person. SSA has identified and is correcting about 2.1 million such records. In addition, neither the name nor number files contain complete and accurate identifying information for all of the numbers issued. In some cases, records of original applications are missing or the information is incomplete or inaccurate. Quality assessments show a continuous increase in the rate of errors found in identifying information. The inadequate training of newly hired employees contributed to the breakdown in the issuance process. Controls over applications in process and safeguards over blank cards were also inadequate. SSA is currently correcting some of these problems in its number file and is implementing a new SSA number application processing system. This system will replace the existing processes and channel all SSA number applications through one control process and subject this information to much closer scrutiny.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of SSA to determine the extent of incomplete and inaccurate information in the name and number files and the impact that such erroneous data have on social security claimants and on the efficient, effective, and economical operation of the files. SSA should then eliminate as many deficiencies as possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of SSA to improve the editing and screening processes to further verify information and reduce the amount of incomplete and inaccurate information entering the files due to errors caused by keying and manual social security number processing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of SSA to establish tighter controls over social security number applications in process and blank social security cards, particularly at teleservice centers and district offices.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of SSA to provide training to field office personnel who accept social security number applications to ensure that the required documentation is obtained and applications are checked for completeness and accuracy before the data are entered into the automated system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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