VICE PRESIDENT GORE ANNOUNCES REINVENTION OF SOCIAL SECURITY
As part of the Clinton Administration's continuing efforts to reinvent
the federal government, Vice President Al Gore today announced a set of
reinvention initiatives for the Social Security Administration.
While the President was in Warm Springs, Ga., commemorating the 50th
anniversary of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vice
President Gore said: "Social Security is one of FDR's most important
legacies to the nation."
In unveiling reinvention proposals to improve social security
operations while preserving FDR's legacy, the Vice President said:
"We'll have a system ready for the next century providing world class
service to its customers."
The Clinton-Gore reinvention recommendations for Social Security
Payment day cycling for new beneficiaries: Monthly payments are
currently paid on the third of each month. This results in peak
workloads for SSA and the banking and business communities. With
approximately 3.5 million beneficiaries coming on the rolls annually,
there is real concern that SSA could not cope with the workloads.
Therefore, new beneficiaries will have their payments staggered over a
number of payment dates throughout the month to eliminate workload spikes
and allow SSA to provide better customer service without adding staff.
In developing this proposal the Social Security Administration
followed the practice of the Administration's National Performance Review
by using customer input to improve SSA operations. Interviews with the
public conducted in "focus groups" showed that many retirees have already
built their monthly activities around the day their payment arrives.
Social Security Commissioner Shirley Chater said: "To change that
practice would be disruptive to them, so the payment day for those
already on SSA's roles will remain the same unless they ask to
participate in our new cycling of payments." That is why payment cycling
will apply only to new Social Security beneficiaries. One day of every
week in the month would, in fact, become "payment day" for a certain
number of new Social Security beneficiaries.
Improve 1-800 telephone service: SSA spent the last six months
meeting with some of America's top-rated customer telephone service
companies to determine the best ways SSA can provide world class
telephone service. SSA learned that these companies rely on modern
computer systems to give them the capacity and capability to provide
quick and accurate service. SSA is striving to develop the same
capability. Commissioner Chater said, "We need to create a technological
infrastructure that will allow us to do more and do it better without
asking for more resources. Nothing is more important to our agency than
getting this infrastructure up and running and serving our customers."
Direct deposit/electronic benefits transfer services: SSA will
increase the number of recipients who are paid by direct deposit in three
phases over four years. The first, already underway, is directed to all
new beneficiaries who have bank accounts. The second phase will focus on
those with bank accounts and who do not use direct deposit services. The
final phase will require that all beneficiaries without bank accounts
must select one of the electronic benefits transfer services that will be
available to receive their monthly benefit payments.
More than forty percent of Social Security's 43 million beneficiaries
are still paid by check. Direct deposit would save 35 cents per check,
or $70 million per year. In addition, more than 35,000 checks are
reported lost each month, and the overwhelming majority of these problems
would be eliminated by going to direct deposit.
One stop benefit application: The Administration wants to give
people who are applying for retirement or Medicare benefits more options.
Many people may find it more convenient and more comfortable to file for
benefits through their own personnel office at work. Today, about one
percent of people filing for benefits use this option -- and where they
are able to do so they use the old paper application process.
The Social Security Administration wants to create a controlled,
confidential, electronic process through which employees at large
companies can quickly file for retirement and/or Medicare through the
company personnel office. This option would allow workers to apply for a
company pension, Social Security and health benefits all at one time and
in one place.
Regional office consolidation: SSA will be moving hundreds of
front-office administrative employees into direct service positions by
consolidating 10 regional offices into five. "In an age of instantaneous
electronic communication, we will be able to function just as efficiently
with five fewer administrative sites," Commissioner Chater said.
Stop collecting attorneys' fees: SSA will no longer be a
collection agency for attorneys who have clients who appeal Social
Security judgments. SSA now approves the fee an attorney (or
non-attorney representative) may charge and withholds a part of past due
benefits for the attorney. "We are getting out of that business,"
Commissioner Chater said. "The agency will no longer approve fees or
withhold benefits to pay attorneys." Social Security workers now
involved in paying attorneys would now be able to provide direct service
to beneficiaries. She noted, however, that there will be statutory
limits on what attorneys may charge.
Employers' electronic wage reporting: All employers, except those
who employ only household workers, will be required to file W-2 wage
reports with SSA on magnetic media or by electronic transmission. Time
and effort now spent in processing and checking paper will be eliminated
to allow Social Security to focus more on the important needs of
Improve the disability adjudication process: State agencies
currently have the authority to make disability determinations, fully
financed by SSA and following SSA rules. Average claim processing times
vary greatly by state, ranging from as low as 42 days to as high as 115
days. SSA will work with the states to jointly establish minimum
performance standards and a period of time during which states will be
required to meet these standards. In addition "performance enhancement
teams" from the highest performing states will be made available on an
as-needed basis to provide on-site assistance. SSA will also encourage
the formation of labor/management partnerships in order to find ways of
increasing performance. This initiative is intended to raise the level
of the lowest performing states and to narrow the gap between the highest
and lowest performing states.
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will process
applications for Social Security cards: Aliens will apply for Social
Security cards at the time they complete INS immigration paperwork.
Currently, the alien applicant is required to furnish almost the same
information to SSA as to INS. This will provide "one stop" service, will
reduce the potential for issuing cards based on fraudulent INS documents
and will result in efficiencies for the government.
End duplicative SSA-IRS filing: Beneficiaries who work and earn
over the exempt amount are required to report their earnings to SSA by
April 15th each year. Beneficiaries are also required to report their
wages for the prior year. To reduce the paperwork burden on the public
and provide "one stop" service, beneficiaries will only report to IRS and
include on their income tax return the amount that would otherwise be
reported to SSA. IRS will issue any payment due to SSA beneficiaries.
In addition, SSA and IRS will work together to determine how IRS can
offset overpayment against tax refunds.
These proposals will result in $850 million in savings from FY 1997 to