SSA Disability Reengineering:

Project Magnitude and Complexity Impede Implementation

T-HEHS-96-211: Published: Sep 12, 1996. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) efforts to redesign its disability claims process. GAO noted that: (1) SSA needs to continue its redesign efforts so that it can reduce the high cost and long processing times associated with the current claims process; (2) the SSA approach to undertake a large number of initiatives at one time is proving to be overly ambitious; (3) SSA is behind schedule on most of the redesign initiatives, and many have become very complex to implement; (4) SSA cannot determine whether these initiatives will achieve desired results; (5) SSA implementation approach will likely limit the chances for project success and has led to delays in implementation; (6) project delays increase the risk of disruption from turnover in key executive positions; and (7) SSA needs to ensure that its redesign efforts are strongly supported by stakeholders and other interested parties.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 1997, SSA issued an updated implementation plan for its disability process redesign. The agency identified a reduced number of initiatives upon which it plans to focus its resources and energies. The agency expects these initiatives to have the greatest impact on achieving its goals.

    Recommendation: SSA needs to reassess the number of initiatives it is simultaneously undertaking and the time frames for completing them. Because SSA undertook the redesign project to reduce processing time and administrative costs and improve service to the public, SSA should focus its efforts on fewer initiatives and emphasize those that will have the greatest impact on accomplishing the project goals.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its updated redesign plan, SSA selected eight key initiatives to implement. In addition, the agency evaluated the relative priority of the remaining initiatives and identified three as good business practices which could be implemented without further testing. Responsibility for these practices was transferred to specific agency components. Finally, SSA has deferred major development efforts on a number of other initiatives.

    Recommendation: SSA should reevaluate the relative priority and contributions to the redesign goals of the remaining initiatives and implement them as resources permit.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration


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