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GAO discussed potential improvements to the Social Security Administration's (SSA) operations, focusing on SSA: (1) leadership; (2) computer modernization management; (3) controls over the services it provides to the public; and (4) work-force management. GAO noted that: (1) SSA has had seven commissioners or acting commissioners over the last decade; and (2) for over half of that time, commissioners were in an acting status. GAO believes that: (1) many SSA operational problems can be linked to the lack of strong, stable senior leadership; and (2) Congress should mandate an 8-year term for the commissioner. GAO also noted that: (1) SSA has neither adequately planned its computer modernization nor followed the plans it made; (2) SSA should improve its computer modernization by designating an accountable manager, conforming its computer plan to its operational plan, and scaling down its efforts; (3) many SSA employees reported low morale because SSA did not sufficiently account for human factors in making changes; and (4) SSA management development efforts are inadequate. In addition, GAO noted that, while overall SSA service appears good, it could improve: (1) telephone accessibility; (2) timeliness of post-entitlement changes; (3) client waiting times; (4) payment accuracy; and (5) assistance to Medicare beneficiaries.

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