Social Security Administration--The First 6 Months of 800 Phone Service

T-HRD-89-15: Published: Apr 10, 1989. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) implementation of a nationwide toll-free telephone service. GAO found that SSA: (1) had a busy signal rate of about 17 percent during the first 3 months of its service, and rates of 43 and 35 percent during January and February 1989; (2) had a 9-percent busy signal rate in March 1989, after it implemented call routing staffing plans for peak volume days; and (3) promoted its toll-free service nationwide, contrary to its initial plans. GAO also found that SSA studies on the accuracy of telephone responses revealed that: (1) 6 percent of responses to trust fund program questions were inaccurate, and 18 percent of responses to supplemental security income questions were incorrect; (2) SSA incorrect responses to benefit inquiries could result in erroneous benefit payments, loss of benefits, or increased SSA work loads; (3) SSA lacked qualified personnel to provide accurate responses to telephone inquiries; and (4) SSA plans to add about 1,100 personnel to operate its toll-free numbers, which could impact response accuracy rates. GAO believes that SSA needs to: (1) suspend its planned promotion activities; (2) determine the staff resources necessary to reduce busy signal rates and expand service; and (3) design systematic and comprehensive evaluation standards to measure and analyze the accuracy of its responses to telephone inquiries.

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