Perspective on Income Security and Social Services and an Agenda for Analysis

HRD-81-104: Published: Aug 13, 1981. Publicly Released: Aug 13, 1981.

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Some of the major income security and social services issues were reviewed, and a forecast was made for future developments. Recent GAO reports, ongoing work, and future strategy for addressing some of the key issues surrounding income security and social services are discussed.

The American system of income security and social services is comprised of over 115 programs with estimated FY 1981 outlays of about 49 percent of the total Federal budget. Basic program structures, dating back to the 1930's, have been continually modified and expanded, and new programs have been added. In developing the programs, an incremental approach has been followed in terms of groups covered, benefit amounts, and eligibility conditions. The programs are extraordinarily complex, and the eligibility conditions and entitlement provisions lack uniformity, even among programs with similar objectives and structures. A number of needs-based programs reach the same segment of the population but have been developed separately without apparent consistent objectives, operating features, and principles of equity. This proliferation of programs has led to administrative complexity, client confusion, and results not intended by Congress. The costs of the system have become extremely large, and outlays have grown at a significantly faster rate than total Federal, State, or local budgets for the past several years. GAO identified the following areas as those meriting attention over the next several years: retirement issues, disability issues, welfare issues, social services issues, systemwide issues, and agencywide management issues.

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