Social Security:

Need for Better Coordination of Food Stamp Services for Social Security Clients

HRD-92-92: Published: Sep 25, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 1992.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO determined whether: (1) taking food stamp applications for certain supplemental security income applicants at Social Security Administration (SSA) offices is working adequately; (2) Social Security program clients are being adequately informed of the availability of food stamps; (3) taking food stamp applications at SSA offices should be expanded to all Social Security program clients; and (4) developing a joint Supplemental Security Income and Food Stamp application form is feasible.

GAO found that: (1) SSA has taken few applications in relation to the number of clients served due to the lack of a strong commitment by to carry out tasks assigned under the Food Stamp Act and the joint application process; (2) the current Food Stamp program design results in duplication of effort, poor service to clients, and unnecessarily complex and lengthy food stamp applications; (3) SSA attempts to inform clients of food stamp availability by displaying posters and making brochures and applications available, but SSA efforts have been inadequate because many offices do not have such displays; (4) this approach ignores the millions of clients that apply by telephone; (5) the current role of taking applications should not be expanded to include all Social Security program clients, because the Supplemental Security Income and Food Stamp programs are needs-based but the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program is not and does not collect information common to the other two programs; and (6) the development of a joint SSI/food stamp application form is feasible, but combining a food-stamp-only application with the longer Supplemental Security Income application would provide little benefit.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: There is no indication that Congress will act on this recommendation in the foreseeable future.

    Matter: Congress should require the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture to jointly develop, within a prescribed time frame, a plan for improving the coordination of food stamp services for SSA program clients. The plan should include implementation time frames and consideration of legislative changes and should be furnished to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Senate Committee on Finance, House Committee on Ways and Means, and the Senate Special Committee on Aging. In developing the plan, the Secretaries should solicit input from states and client advocates, and consider: (1) addressing problems at the application-taking levels, including the possible need to better orient staff and hold them accountable for adhering to coordination requirements; (2) exploring options to the current joint application process, including eliminating the 1-working-day requirement for SSA field staff to complete the food stamp application; (3) developing a simple food stamp application for national use by SSA field office staff; (4) taking additional steps to ensure that applicants and recipients of SSA programs are adequately informed of food stamp availability; (5) strengthening the process for referring SSA clients to state offices to apply for food stamps; and (6) developing methods to monitor how well SSA and states carry out their responsibilities.


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