Social Security:

Restoration of Telephone Access to Local SSA Offices

HRD-91-76FS: Published: Mar 5, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 4, 1991.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on the Social Security Administration's (SSA): (1) policy for directing the public to either the nationwide toll-free telephone service or to local field offices; (2) plans for publishing local office telephone numbers and addresses; (3) changes in available telephone lines and equipment since September 1989; and (4) staffing levels for local offices since September 1989.

GAO found that: (1) legislation required SSA to, by October 1989, restore public access to local office telephone service while retaining the option of using the toll-free service; (2) SSA intends to provide and publish a general inquiry telephone number for approximately 790 local field offices that began the toll-free service; (3) publication schedules for local telephone directories would determine when field offices' telephone numbers and addresses are published; (4) SSA suggested a directory format for listing local office addresses omitted from telephone directories during the switch to the toll-free service; (5) SSA allowed field staff and telephone equipment levels to decline in the months preceding and following its October 1989 changeover because it anticipated that local field offices' telephone work loads would be assumed by the toll-free service; (6) SSA did not plan increases in either staffing or equipment to meet possible additional work loads at local offices because it lacked funding for such increases; (7) local field offices had fewer staff available in December 1990 to answer calls from the public than were available in September 1989; and (8) SSA did not know how many persons would call local offices instead of the toll-free service, and could not determine its future local field staffing needs.

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