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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
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. These provisions cover such areas as:
improving representative payee selection and monitoring;
recovery of overpayments by means of offsetting income tax refunds;
revising the definition of disability for widows and widowers; and
improving Social Security notices to the public.
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
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 applications in a more timely and accurate manner;
"800" number improvements to permit SSA to handle more calls with available teleservice representatives, thus reducing busy rates and providing better public access to SSA;
Ensuring adequate computer capacity to meet growing beneficiary workloads and increasing online transaction volumes;
Additional personal computer workstations to increase efficiency of
administrative tasks throughout the Agency, and for printing notices for
Replacement or upgrade of equipment that has become outmoded, unreliable or costly to maintain.
This budget also supports investments in automated data processing equipment and services for the State Disability Determination Services. In recent years these State agencies have improved productivity and quality with limited support in terms of automation. The States are now faced with significant increases in projected disability workloads; coupled with increased emphasis on quality and training on and implementation of new childhood disability regulations, which will result in slightly reduced productivity. We now, more than ever before, need to make sure that State Disability Determination Services employees have the automated tools they need to do their jobs efficiently.
SSA's 1992 budget request also restores limited funding for other critical areas of SSA employee support. For example, we plan to replenish near-depleted inventories of supplies, forms and public information materials; and we will make minimal investments needed to ensure employee health and safety in SSA's facilities. In addition, funds will be restored for employee training and for basic building repairs and maintenance, to finance the most critical repairs deferred from prior years and prevent further deterioration of our facilities.
I am committed to the employees of the Social Security Administration whom I have asked to enter into a partnership with me to ensure the continued efficient operation of this program, one that has paid benefits each month, on time for the past 50 years. We will continue to work together in this partnership to deliver quality public service and to safeguard the Social Security programs for our current and future beneficiaries.
Fiscal Year 1991 Supplemental Request
SSA also has before the Committee a fiscal year 1991 supplemental budget request related to the significant increase in work this Agency faces as a result of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Sullivan v. Zebley. This decision calls for SSA to reevaluate childhood disability claims for SSI benefits which have been denied because the child's functional limitations were not considered in evaluating the severity of the impairment. Although details for implementing the decision are still being worked out with the court, SSA's budget estimates assume that nationwide class relief will extend to claims denied since January 1980, resulting in 200,000 to 300,000 new disability determinations for Zebley class members.
To fund SSA and State Disability Determination Services costs for this large, one-time workload -- including making new disability determinations for Zebley class members who request one, evaluating income and resources for those class members determined to be disabled, and processing appeals of denials -- the President has requested a supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 1991, with funds to remain available through the end of fiscal year 1993.
Regulations used to evaluate childhood disability entitlement have been revised based on the Zebley decision to make them comparable to the regulations used to evaluate adult categories. As a result, we also anticipate an increase in ongoing SSI disability workloads, beginning in fiscal year 1991, due to the revisions made to the childhood disability regulations.
Social Security Trust Funds
I would like to say a few words about the Social Security trust funds. Funds to pay benefits from the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are permanently appropriated, and therefore are not part of the budget requests before this Committee. In fiscal year 1992 we expect to make payments of