SSA's Management Challenges:

Strong Leadership Needed to Turn Plans Into Timely, Meaningful Action

T-HEHS-98-113: Published: Mar 12, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) progress in addressing its management challenges, focusing on: (1) SSA's need to strengthen its research and policy capacity in order to address the future solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds; (2) SSA's management and oversight problems with its Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program; (3) its disability programs; and (4) its future workload demands.

GAO noted that: (1) SSA recognizes the challenges GAO has identified and has taken or plans to take steps to address many of these problems; (2) in 1997, for example, SSA conducted even more eligibility reviews of disabled beneficiaries than it had planned; (3) also, after changes in the childhood disability program were enacted, SSA rapidly reviewed the cases of over 260,000 children receiving SSI benefits; (4) nevertheless, the pace at which the agency is moving does not seem adequate to resolve most of its challenges within a meaningful timeframe; (5) for example, SSA's efforts to bolster its research, evaluation, and policy analysis capabilities have a long lead time before useful products will be available; (6) in the meantime, SSA will not be able to fully contribute to the current debate on social security reform; (7) in addition, in some areas, SSA's efforts have also been too limited; (8) its steps to date, for example, to address deep-seated problems in its SSI program have been piecemeal and have not addressed the root causes of the SSI problems; and (9) given the long-standing nature of challenges SSA faces and their far-reaching implications for current and future beneficiaries, the new Commissioner will need to assert strong leadership to spell out the expected changes and marshal the agency's resources to translate SSA's plans into timely action.

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