Social Security:

Quality of Services Generally Rated High by Clients Sampled

HRD-86-8: Published: Jan 30, 1986. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1986.

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GAO conducted a survey of clients of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs to ascertain their opinions of the quality of SSA services.

GAO sent questionnaires to 1,680 SSA clients, asking them to rate SSA services and to compare SSA to other government agencies, and found that: (1) 78 percent rated SSA services as good to very good; (2) 50 percent rated services as better than services received from other agencies; (3) 90 percent said that SSA employees were courteous; (4) 7 percent rated services as poor; and (5) those clients receiving SSI, the disabled, and denied claimants were less satisfied, and significant differences were noted between SSI and OASDI clients and between the disabled and nondisabled. GAO also found that: (1) of clients who visited field offices, 80 percent waited a reasonable amount of time for service and 88 percent had sufficient privacy to discuss personal business with SSA staff; (2) most clients considered mail from SSA generally easy to understand, but 50 percent had contacted SSA for clarification; and (3) of clients who reached SSA by phone for service, 47 percent made contact on their first attempt. GAO found several factors that make it difficult for SSA to deliver quality services, such as: (1) new program responsibilities and program changes mandated by Congress; (2) an antiquated computer system to process millions of annual transactions; (3) larger case loads as the number of older Americans increases; (4) diversion of resources to carry out judicial mandates; and (5) legislation with short implementation lead times. GAO noted that the SSA systems modernization plan should bring the agency's computer systems to a level that will improve service.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA contracted with an agency to perform the survey. The results are due in the summer of 1988. Because SSA committed itself to various congressional committees to do those surveys, there is no need to keep this recommendation open.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to conduct periodic surveys of client satisfaction with the quality of SSA service and advise Congress of the results.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services


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