Social Security:

Service to the Public--Accuracy of the 800 Phone Service

T-HRD-90-30: Published: May 18, 1990. Publicly Released: May 18, 1990.

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GAO discussed: (1) the Social Security Administration's (SSA) methodology for evaluating the accuracy of information it provides to the public through its toll-free telephone system; and (2) SSA efforts to stop withholding of Medicare catastrophic coverage premiums. GAO found that SSA needed to strengthen its methodology for measuring the accuracy and completeness of its telephone service responses by: (1) clarifying its teleservice manual; (2) integrating accuracy checks with the quality assurance process; (3) updating training to reflect trends in accuracy for specific issues; (4) recording conversations to make it easier to assess accuracy; and (5) disclosing the extent to which callers are inconvenienced or receive incomplete information. GAO also noted that SSA difficulties in stopping the withholding of catastrophic coverage premiums are indicative of its long-standing software and computer systems problem. GAO believes that SSA should document the process it followed to reverse withholding and keep current the computer programs it developed, to save time and money until it completes a systems overhaul.

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