Retirement Security:

Better Management Needed in Social Security Administration's Toll-Free Telephone Service to the Public

MASAD-82-3: Published: Oct 28, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1981.


Richard Davis
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GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) toll-free telephone service to the public.

In fiscal year 1980, SSA spent an estimated $9.5 million providing toll-free, long-distance telephone service to the public. This cost resulted from two sources: (1) the approximately 1,400 SSA offices accepting collect, long-distance calls from the public; and (2) some of the 32 Teleservice Centers using Wide Area Telecommunications Service providing toll-free, long-distance telephone service to the public. GAO found that better management of the SSA toll-free service would reduce costs because collect calls are an expensive way to provide toll-free service, and alternative telephone services would require cost analyses to maintain the most economic configuration. In addition, SSA management lacked central direction, and its management philosophy limited cost-effective alternatives. The need for cost-effective management has become even more important because of: (1) SSA efforts to reduce the cost of its programs, (2) major price increases in long-distance telephone services, and (3) SSA consideration of expanding the Teleservice Center concept nationwide.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of SSA to: (1) assign to the Communications Systems Branch central management responsibility for ensuring that toll-free telephone services configurations are the most cost-effective method to the Government; (2) ask the Communications Systems Branch to conduct the annual economic analysis of toll-free telephone services required by Federal Property Management Regulation 101-37.312; and (3) instruct SSA offices to discontinue promoting public use of collect calls for contacting its offices, unless extenuating circumstances exist.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: An accomplishment report was processed for a $7 million cost reduction in the SSA telephone service. While the remaining recommended actions are valid, they are no longer priority items. The National Security and International Affairs Division no longer has responsibility for this area and does not believe that continued followup of the remaining items is justified.

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