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Observations on the Social Security Administration's Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Report and Fiscal Year 2001 Performance Plan

HEHS-00-126R: Published: Jun 30, 2000. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) fiscal year (FY) 1999 performance report and FY 2001 performance plan required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.

GAO noted that: (1) SSA considers customer service one of its key priorities, and according to its FY 1999 performance report, SSA met many of its goals related to providing accurate, timely, and useful service to the public; (2) SSA met key goals related to overall customer satisfaction and the timely processing of retirement claims; (3) however, SSA's progress lagged in some areas, such as waiting times for persons with appointments and the accuracy of the handling of calls to its toll-free number; (4) in its FY 2001 plan, as with its FY 2000 plan, SSA has demonstrated its desire to use an even broader range of measures for customer satisfaction through its new Market Measurement Program; (5) the FY 1999 report clearly indicates that making accurate and timely disability determinations remains one of SSA's most challenging service areas; (6) in those cases where performance data were available, SSA did not meet any of the key goals it set for itself; (7) unmet goals included average processing times and other timeliness measures of disability decisions at both the initial application and appellate levels; (8) SSA's FY 2001 performance plan reflects some improvements in how SSA assesses its progress; (9) the FY 1999 report also reflects that minimal progress has been made in reducing long-term disability benefits as a result of returning beneficiaries to work; (10) however, the FY 2001 plan includes improvements; (11) SSA's progress toward providing decisionmakers timely information necessary to address program policy issues in FY 1999 was also unclear; (12) while SSA listed a number of research activities it conducted during the fiscal year, it was difficult to determine how timely or useful they were; (13) the FY 2001 performance plan, however, reflects significant improvements; (14) the FY 1999 report indicates that SSA met all key goals related to reducing fraud, waste, and error in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program; (15) the FY 2001 plan reflects a continued commitment of effort and resources and contains additional measures for assessing error; (16) of the 9 management challenges known to SSA at the time it developed its FY 2001 performance plan, SSA has established goals and measures for five, including long-term program solvency, SSI program integrity, redesigning the disability claims process and focusing on return to work, program complexity, and service to the public; and (17) however, room for improvement both in measuring and achieving progress exist for each of these challenges.

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