Improving the Quality of Social Security Administration Notices

HRD-85-96: Published: Aug 29, 1985. Publicly Released: Aug 29, 1985.

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Joseph F. Delfico
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GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Clear Notices Project to determine whether: (1) improved notices are likely to result from the effort; and (2) more could be done to help produce clear notices.

GAO found that 5 of the 12 initiatives of the project, which was established in April 1984 and is scheduled to end September 30, 1986, have been completed. The completed initiatives include: (1) the standardization of notice content; (2) the development of an agencywide format; and (3) the cataloging of notice language. SSA is still revising existing notices to meet notice standards and is testing proposed notice language with notice recipients. However, the revision of initial claims notices for the retirement, survivors, and disability insurance programs will involve the implementation of an automated claims process in field offices which is not expected to be completed until 1988. GAO found that the changes in language and format which the project has produced to date have improved the clarity of notices; however, SSA does not periodically evaluate the clarity of its notices or solicit feedback from its clients. GAO believes that: (1) SSA management needs client feedback on the clarity of the notices; and (2) field testing proposed notice language would be prudent.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A contract to test notices was issued in 1986. A report is due in 1987.

    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Social Security should develop and implement a strategy to obtain periodic feedback from SSA clients on the clarity of SSA notices and use such feedback to systematically evaluate SSA progress in improving and maintaining notice clarity.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration


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