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numbers will be published and 100 percent will be available by January 1993.
Because of the delay in publishing directories, we have requested directory assistance to provide the local numbers as soon as possible. By July 1991, about 97 percent of the local numbers will be available through directory assistance.
ACCURACY OF TELEPHONE INFORMATION
Question. Your report on service indicators is somewhat vague about the accuracy of information given over the national "800" service network. In last year's testimony, you referred to a national quality assurance program to capture such information, begun in October 1989. What can you tell us about the accuracy of information the public receives over the "800" number?
Answer. As part of SSA's continuing effort to improve "800" number service to the public, we are conducting an ongoing evaluation of the accuracy of the information provided. The latest results of our monitoring indicate that less than 3 percent of SSA responses to all calls involved the potential to adversely affect payment of benefits or eligibility. Note that the accuracy rate is a percentage of all calls. Per our work with the General Accounting Office, we will be separating all calls into 2 categories--those that could affect payment and those that do not. We will then be able to provide the accuracy rate as a percent of all calls, as well as a percent of only those calls affecting payment.
In addition, we are not yet satisfied that we have achieved an assessment process that is as consistent as possible among monitors throughout the nation. We are actively pursuing modifications to study procedure which we believe will provide more uniform results and better corrective action for the components being evaluated.
Question. The OIG issued a report showing that SSA modernized its claims processing system allowing about 10,000 employees to have direct access to all the key functions in the system without implementing sufficient automated controls to replace separation of duties eliminated in the process. According to the OIG, without sufficient preventive controls to ensure that the actions taken are appropriate and correct, the system is vulnerable to fraud, waste, and abuse. What additional controls does SSA plan to implement to compensate for the lack of separation of duties in the claims process?
Answer. Release 2.7 of the modernized claims system (MCS), scheduled for September 1991, will have the capability of identifying the personal identification number (PIN) holders who were substantially involved in processing any particular claim. SSA's integrity review case selection will focus primarily on cases where only one PIN holder was involved.
Release 2.8, to be issued after September 1991, will expand the MCS interface with master file information to compare applicantsupplied identifying information for each auxiliary and survivor
claimant to master file records. The purpose is to generate a systems control alert if the information does not match. Only management officials will have the capability to override the alert.
This release will also expand the MCS death interface to compare death information from master files for all claimants. Payments will be prevented until death information discrepancies are resolved.
VERIFICATION OF CALLER IDENTITY
Question. Another OIG report showed that based on a phone call, SSA employees reinstate payment to beneficiaries that were suspended because checks were undeliverable. This is done without verifying that the phone caller is the beneficiary or ensuring that the beneficiary is alive. Some payments made based on these phone calls are for thousands of dollars. Since SSA did not agree that compensating controls are necessary, what does SSA plan to do to correct the potential for fraud?
Answer. SSA has had policy and procedures for addressing this in its operating guides for several years. SSA requires verification of all entitlement factors before reinstating benefits, verification of address and/or direct deposit data before reinstatement following a nonpayment status of 9 months or more, and verification of address and/or direct deposit information if a report of a change is received from a third party.
Question. The OIG did a review of SSA's processing of beneficiary death alerts and found that during a 3 month period over $34 million in payments to deceased beneficiaries were made because SSA didn't take timely action on death alerts. In addition, about 19,000 field employees can change or delete death alerts and at the same time improperly redirect payments. What action has been taken to correct this problem?
Answer. OIG indicated that the reason for delays was that personnel were not following operating guide procedures. Each of our 10 regional offices has assigned a "death match coordinator" who is responsible for monitoring compliance with procedural instructions for processing death alerts.
Although OIG recommended that SSA authorize only nonsupervisory management to delete or change death alert information, SSA did not agree that non-supervisory personnel is the best control point. SSA is developing procedures which will require regional security officers to use death alerts to monitor changes and deletions.
SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVE WAGE POSTING
Question. The OIG recently completed a review of problems associated with posting earnings to Social Security records because of the worker's name or Social Security number. This is a serious problem because if earnings are not posted, workers do not receive credit for work that could eventually entitle them to Social
Security benefits or that may affect the amount of their benefits. The review showed that SSA's systems are only marginally effective in resolving the problems. The OIG made 29 recommendations that should substantially improve SSA's capability for posting these earnings.
What action does SSA plan to take to improve the posting of workers' earnings?
Answer. We feel very keenly the responsibility to post earnings accurately, and we are always striving to do it better. We realize some of the methods for resolving Social Security number and name errors in wage reporting have shortcomings, and we are making improvements. One of our major initiatives in this area is the earnings modernization project. We are including systems enhancements to resolve some of the problems.
We agree with the OIG recommendations. In fact, a workgroup we set up earlier presented similar ideas. Some of the actions we are taking to implement them are:
designing improved correspondence forms to elicit better
evaluating our present computer applications to be sure the
electronically processing workloads that were done manually-for example, the Zoning Improvement Plan (ZIP) Code exception workload;
setting up tighter controls for transmitting earnings tapes, minimizing the chances that data will be posted late;
screening undeliverable mail sent to employees and employers so that it can be re-routed quickly; and
expanding our public education program to make more people
IMPROVEMENTS TO TELEPHONE SERVICE
Question. SSA's "800" telephone system has been the focus of much congressional interest stemming from complaints from the public. The OIG recommended that SSA consolidate its "800" centers to give SSA flexibility with staffing and technology for service improvements. Documentation on planning efforts at SSA indicated that it was aware of the advantages of physically consolidating small centers into fewer sites with larger staffs. Therefore, what steps has SSA taken to consolidate small centers into larger ones and what time frame has been established for completion of the consolidation?
Answer. Planning is underway at the executive level within SSA to develop a framework for delivering "800" number service in the next 3-5 years. The workgroup is considering the best ways to provide staffing flexibility, maximize the use of technology and improve productivity. As part of this effort, the workgroup is evaluating the impact of changes on costs under FTS 2000.
are aware, SSA's "800" number telephone service will be transferred to FTS2000 on October 1, 1991.
MOVING "800" SERVICE TO FTS2000
Question. What is the status of GSA's plan to switch your "800" telephone to FTS2000?
Answer: The migration of the SSA telecommunications workload to FTS2000 is progressing very well. The "800" number service and backbone network will be moved by September 27, 1991 and September 15, 1991 respectively. The transition of 1,300 field offices to FTS2000 will be finished by December 31, 1991.
Question. How much more would this cost than the amount included in your fiscal 1992 budget request?
Answer. Our FY 1992 budget request includes $56,282,000 which is our current estimate of "800" number line charge costs under FTS2000.
Question. What is the Social Security Administration's position on this issue, and what options are being pursued to resolve this issue?
Answer. We are concerned about the migration to FTS2000 because our "800" number will be changed. After exploring other options, we learned that the entire Government is mandated by law to migrate to FTS2000. We are committed to doing the best we can to make this transition successful.
AUTOMATED MARRIAGE DATA EXCHANGE
Question. The Inspector General's Office, in a September 1990 report, urged you to initiate an automated marriage data exchange with State Bureaus of Vital Statistics to issue updated Social Security number cards. Do you agree with the Inspector General's estimate that this would save $7 million in administrative costs?
Answer. We believe that although the concept of the Inspector General's proposal is good, the administrative savings would be substantially less than the estimated $7 million. Because many factors are unknown at this time it is difficult to determine whether this effort would be cost effective.
The Inspector General's estimate is based on estimated savings of SSA's enumeration at birth program. We think that the savings generated by the enumeration at birth program are not fully relevant to an automated marriage data exchange. For instance, while all of the States' birth records are fairly consistent in capturing information necessary for enumeration, marriage records differ from State to State and often do not include all of the information necessary for SSA to issue name change replacement cards. In fact, only one State captures most of the data SSA needs to produce a replacement card and only 30 States have computerized marriage records. Another significant difference is citizenship which is assumed in the enumeration at birth program could not be assumed in the automated marriage data exchange process. For these reasons, the Inspector General's proposal would require us to
enter into extensive negotiations with each State in order to get them to collect and submit the information that SSA needs.
Also, the Inspector General's estimate does not consider fees which States will, in all likelihood, charge for obtaining and submitting the additional information needed by SSA.
Finally, we believe the number of cases resulting in edits and alerts which our field offices would have to develop will be much higher than the 3 percent assumed in the Inspector General's estimate.
Question. What is being done to implement these recommendations?
Answer. We have no objection, in principle, to using computerized marriage records to detect unreported marriages. However, from a practical point of view, we doubt the OIG proposal would be cost effective, nor would it be a workable program. Overall, we considered OIG's projection of costs, size and complexity of workloads to be significantly underestimated. Moreover, in the long run, we believe the overall administrative costs would substantially reduce any savings realized. SSA did not concur with the OIG recommendation.
SSA AND DOMESTIC DISCRETIONARY "CAPS"
Some members of Congress maintain that Social Security administrative costs should be excluded from the domestic caps. Explain why OMB has decided to include these administrative costs within the domestic discretionary caps?
Answer. OMB's General Counsel (GC) has reviewed the question of whether the Social Security trust funds should be excluded from the domestic discretionary spending category. The GC acknowledged that the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 contains a provision generally excluding receipts and disbursements of the Social Security trust funds from being subject to sequestration under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law.
Several other provisions in the law, however, support the other interpretation. As a result, the GC concluded that the new law best supports classifying the Social Security administrative expense as being under the domestic discretionary cap.
QUESTION SUBMITTTED BY SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER
PENDING COURT CASES
Question. Do you know of any other cases that are currently pending before the courts that could potentially have the same impact on SSA as the Zebley case?
Answer. Four class action cases are currently pending before the courts that could potentially have a major impact on SSA. I cannot say that they would have the same impact as Zebley because