Social Security:

Staff Reductions and Service Quality

HRD-87-66: Published: Mar 10, 1987. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 1987.

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GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) intention to reduce its staff by 21 percent through fiscal year 1990, specifically: (1) the quality of SSA service; (2) the effect of staff reductions on service; and (3) the nature and extent of past and planned staff reductions.

GAO found that: (1) processing times for initial claims and appeals generally improved; (2) processing times for disability claims increased because of the time required to implement 1984 legislative changes for mental impairment cases; (3) backlogs for major work loads were down substantially from 1984 levels, the year before the reduction initiative; (4) SSA clients and employees generally considered performance and service as good as or better than it was in the past, but acknowledged that staff reductions adversely affected their operations; and (5) there was a significant increase in the time to process Supplemental Security Income payments for the blind and disabled. SSA reduced its staffing estimate below the ceiling that Congress approved in order to meet budgetary shortfalls of $284 million and proposed a reduction of an additional 5,266 work-years, rather than use contingency reserve resources to make up the reductions. SSA expects to achieve additional staff reductions through systems modernization, increased productivity, and various procedural changes.

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