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SSA Service Delivery Challenges

The Social Security Administration (SSA) faces challenges managing retirement and disability benefit workloads while providing quality and timely customer service.

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SSA's workload has grown with the aging of the baby boomer population. At the same time, many of SSA's most experienced staff are poised to retire (see fig.1). As a result, SSA faces significant service delivery challenges. Specifically, SSA estimates that retirement and disability beneficiaries will increase by 23 percent, from 62.2 million in 2012 to 76.5 million in 2020. Additionally, SSA projects that nearly 31,000 of its employees will be eligible to retire by 2020, including 43 percent of its non-supervisory employees and 60 percent of its supervisors. Despite SSA’s efforts to manage its rising workload, customer service in SSA’s field offices and on its telephone hotline has been adversely affected and SSA has deferred key program integrity activities, such as reviews of beneficiaries’ continuing eligibility for benefits. Although SSA is finalizing a service delivery plan, it only includes detailed plans for the next 5 years and focuses on existing initiatives rather than articulating specific long-term strategies for the agency’s service delivery model. Additionally, SSA lacks an up-to-date succession plan to help manage the potential loss of institutional knowledge and expertise and ensure leadership continuity. Moreover, while SSA has increased the proportion of its services that it delivers electronically, it has not yet analyzed whether its existing headquarters, region, and field structure most effectively and efficiently supports the agency’s mission.

Figure 1: Long-Term Projected Growth in SSA’s Workload Coincides with Large Numbers of Potential Employee Retirements

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Social Security Administration:

Long-Term Strategy Needed to Address Key Management Challenges
GAO-13-459:
Published: May 29, 2013. Publicly Released: May 29, 2013.

Social Security Administration:

Better Planning Needed to Improve Service Delivery
GAO-10-586T:
Published: Apr 15, 2010. Publicly Released: Apr 15, 2010.

Social Security Administration:

Service Delivery Plan Needed to Address Baby Boom Retirement Challenges
GAO-09-24:
Published: Jan 9, 2009. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 2009.

Social Security Administration Field Offices:

Reduced Workforce Faces Challenges as Baby Boomers Retire
GAO-08-737T:
Published: May 8, 2008. Publicly Released: May 8, 2008.

More Reports

Disability Compensation:

Retirement Security:

Challenges for Those Claiming Social Security Benefits Early and New Health Coverage Options
GAO-14-311:
Published: Apr 23, 2014. Publicly Released: May 27, 2014.

Social Security Disability Programs:

SSA Could Take Steps to Improve Its Assessment of Continued Eligibility
GAO-14-492T:
Published: Apr 9, 2014. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 2014.

Social Security Death Data:

Additional Action Needed to Address Data Errors and Federal Agency Access
GAO-14-46:
Published: Nov 27, 2013. Publicly Released: Dec 27, 2013.

Medicare Information Technology:

Disability Insurance:

Work Activity Indicates Certain Social Security Disability Insurance Payments Were Potentially Improper
GAO-13-635:
Published: Aug 15, 2013. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 2013.

Social Security Administration:

Preliminary Observations on the Death Master File
GAO-13-574T:
Published: May 8, 2013. Publicly Released: May 8, 2013.

Social Security Administration:

Preliminary Observations on Key Management Challenges
GAO-13-545T:
Published: Apr 26, 2013. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 2013.

Medicare:

Medicare:

Action Needed to Remove Social Security Numbers from Medicare Cards
GAO-12-949T:
Published: Aug 1, 2012. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 2012.
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Podcasts

SSA Management ChallengesWednesday, May 29, 2013
  • portrait of Daniel Bertoni
    • Daniel Bertoni
    • Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security
    • bertonid@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-7215