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Disability Determination Services which make disability determinations on
behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, $260 million for
automated data processing and telecommunications expenses, and a
In addition, SSA is requesting a fiscal year 1991 supplemental of $232.0 million for the LAE account, with funds to remain available through fiscal year 1993, to finance the one-time costs of implementing the Supreme Court decision in the case of Sullivan v. Zebley. A like amount also is requested for the SSI appropriation, to reimburse the trust funds from general revenues, as provided by law, for the cost of this work.
SSA Goals and Objectives
Social Security is vested with an enormous public trust. SSA has a direct and Important effect on the lives and well-being of millions of Americans. People look to SSA to provide financial support in their retirement years and to protect against the financial hardship that can accompany a disability or the premature death of a household breadwinner. Also, economically-disadvantaged elderly, blind, and disabled people look to SSA for basic, minimum financial assistance. The people we serve can go nowhere else to meet these needs. Because of SSA's unique role, we must ensure that all Americans get the service from this Agency that they deserve.
To this end, SSA's budget request supports, within available funding, the three primary goals I have established for the Social Security Administration:
To serve the public with compassion, courtesy, consideration, efficiency and accuracy;
To protect and maintain the American people's investment in the Social
To create an environment that ensures a highly skilled, motivated workforce dedicated to meeting the challenges of SSA's public service mission.
SSA's business is serving people. Over the last decade this Agency has made considerable changes and improvements in the way it provides service and interacts with beneficiaries and the public in general. For example, we have modernized our title II Social Security claims-taking system and automated many previously manual activities. In addition, we now conduct a much larger portion of our work over the telephone, and we have implemented nationwide toll-free "800" number telephone service for handling all general, incoming calls to SSA. Although the telephone is preferred by a majority of the people we serve, we also have maintained the options of visiting one of our 1,297 local offices or contacting Social Security by mail.
Nevertheless, our ability to continue to provide high quality public service depends on funding that is sufficient to pay for the staff and related expenses needed to process expected workloads and carry out SSA's mission. Only through the loyalty and dedication of it's staff, supported by automation and management improvements, has SSA been able to meet demands of growing beneficiary and worker populations while maintaining its service delivery levels.
SSA's fiscal year 1992 administrative budget request would increase employment to the level needed to support about 63,700 full-time equivalents (FTEs) -- an increase of about 750 FTEs from the amount currently funded for 1991 - and represents an increase of about 9 percent from the fiscal year 1991 funding level (excluding the supplemental funds requested for one-time work for implementation of the Supreme Court decision in Sullivan v. Zebley). Although the 9 percent increase requested for fiscal year 1992 may appear to be substantial under the new budget rules, it is a conservative request given the magnitude of SSA's built-in mandatory cost increases and the amount of work to be done.
This request recognizes the need for fiscal restraint Governmentwide and SSA's obligation to make the most effective use of limited resources. As a result, while in general the present levels of service will be maintained, we do not expect that SSA will be able to improve materially its service delivery during the budget period. In fact, in some areas, we may see the number of cases pending increase and processing times grow.
SSA's budget request for fiscal year 1992 is driven to a large extent by the significant increases in work SSA can expect over the next two years. These increases are primarily attributable to the following factors:
In recent months SSA has seen an increase in the numbers of SSI and Social Security disability claims filed. SSA's current estimates of disability claims receipts for fiscal year 1991 have increased by 8 percent from the estimates in the 1991 President's budget. For fiscal year 1992 we estimate an additional increase of more than 4 percent from the 1991 level.
At the end of November 1990, 392,000 initial disability claims were pending in the State Disability Determination Services, an increase of more than
30 percent compared to one year earlier. We also have seen increasing disability claims processing times. These trends are expected to continue during this budget period.
SSA's nationwide "800" number continues to elicit heavy call volumes, resulting in high busy rates. Measures to improve service, such as automated scripts, revised call routing, and intelligent queuing are being tested and implemented. Nevertheless, given increasing call volumes, the budget does not anticipate significant improvement in busy rates.
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 includes several provisions
which could have a significant impact on SSA's administrative resources.
recovery of overpayments by means of offsetting income tax refunds;
revising the definition of disability for widows and widowers; and
Some additional resources have been budgeted in fiscal year 1992 to address these provisions. SSA will, however, concentrate its resources on processing the additional claims and other workloads generated by this legislation.
In recognition of the rapid changes within the Agency in recent years and the need to focus limited resources on achieving our service goals, we have begun to revise SSA's Agency Strategic Plan to define service requirements and needed investments in new technology. A renewed Agency Strategic Plan will provide, in general, a picture of how SSA will deliver high quality service to the American public in the next century. This is not a short-term effort. However, once-completed, it will help us develop more efficient and effective ways to manage increasing workloads within available administrative
Tools and Technology To Serve the Public
In order for SSA employees to do their jobs in the most effective and efficient manner and continue delivering high-quality public service now and in the future, we must invest in our human resources by providing adequate training and furnishing our employees with essential automated tools and materiel support. One critical component of employee support is that provided by SSA's automated data processing and telecommunications systems, on which SSA's service delivery is heavily and Increasingly reliant.
The cost of just maintaining current operations in these systems continues to increase. We also must continue to invest in technology as a tool to improve the quality of
service our employees can provide to the public, to pay benefits promptly and
accurately, to handle claims swiftly, and to administer each of our programs as efficiently as possible.
While downsizing by about 17,000 FTEs, SSA has been able to maintain service levels in recent years largely due to the efficiencies achieved through automation and systems modernization. SSA's investments in technology have accomplished a great deal. Nevertheless, continued investments are needed to lay the foundation for future efficiencies needed to offset workload growth and provide the flexibility needed to improve public service. Along with investments in technology, we must ensure that our employees are properly trained as new systems and procedures are implemented, and that they have safe work environments with appropriate equipment and supplies to do their jobs.
SSA's fiscal year 1992 systems investments will focus on:
Further automation and modernization of the Agency's programmatic software,
so that SSA employees can keep up with growing workloads and process
"800" number improvements to permit SSA to handle more calls with available
teleservice representatives, thus reducing busy rates and providing better
Ensuring adequate computer capacity to meet growing beneficiary workloads and increasing online transaction volumes;