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SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION REPORT CARD FOR 2014

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Social Security Administration Report Card for 2014
By Scott B. Elkind, Esq.

The Office of the Inspector General in November, 2014 has issued its Evaluation Report on the operations of the Social Security Administration and has stated the following findings:

  • Legislative action is required to address the SSA’s program imbalance caused by increased numbers of baby boomers seeking disability benefits as they age
  • Reduction in the hearings backlog and actions taken to prevent its recurrence
  • Improvement is needed in the timeliness and quality of the disability process
  • Reduction of improper payments and increase overpayment recoveries
  • Improve customer service
  • Invest in information technology infrastructure to support current and future workloads
  • Strengthen the integrity and protection of the Social Security number
  • Strengthen planning, transparency and accountability

Challenges faced by SSA during 2014 include:

  • Addressing the hearings backlog (which is approaching 1 million cases) and timeliness of decisions while maintaining quality and consistency of its decisions
  • Address the receipt of millions of initial disability and reconsideration claims and backlogs of initial disability claims and continuing disability reviews while protecting the disability program from fraud
  • Reducing improper payments
  • Increasing workloads and representative payee oversight
  • Sufficient information technology (IT) controls and secure electronic services through strategic planning to meet the growing needs of its customers
  • Protecting the SSN and properly posting reported wages
  • Significant deficiencies in internal controls related to calculation, recording and prevent ion of overpayments as well as information systems controls

Recommendations made include:

Hearings Backlog
  • Need to replace ALJs being lost as a result of attrition
  • Use available resources to increase adjudicatory capacity
  • Develop management information to identify hearing office outliers
  • Continue focusing on quality of ALJ decisions
Timeliness and Quality of Disability Process
  • If continuing disability reviews were to be conducted at record levels, SSA could realize a savings of more than $4.6B
  • Need for analytical tools or information technology infrastructure to screen applications for potential fraud
  • Increasing Disability Determination Services staffing and automation
Reduction of Improper Payments and Increasing Overpayment Recoveries
  • Need wage reporting automation and data analytics
  • Data collection from reliable third-party sources
  • Accurate calculation of overpayments and data reconciliation
Improve Customer Service
  • The number of Americans age 55 and older will increase by more than 10 million between 2015 and 2020. 45% of SSA’s remaining employees (and 54% of its supervisors) will be eligible for retirement by 2022. SSA has lost many of its most experienced employees to other employment and retirement. Longer waits at offices and on phone-lines are being experienced
  • Due to the increasing Hispanic population, more spanish-speaking personnel are required
  • Continuing problems with the representative payee program must be resolved
  • Expanded on-line, video, and telephone services are needed
Information Technology Infrastructure Improvements
  • The current SSA information technology (IT) structure was put in place in 1979 with the new structure not available until 2016
  • Improved security of electronic services as current systems are insufficient
  • Delivering major IT structures is restricted due to budget
Protecting Social Security Numbers and Posting Wages
  • Social security numbers (SSNs) are an illegal commodity, but are needed to report wages
  • Improved means of securing SSNs need to be implemented
  • Scarce resources are spent to correct incorrectly reported wages
  • Steps are being taken to streamline this process and implement a verification process
Strengthening Planning, Transparency, and Accountibility
  • Need for better outcome-based measures and goals instead of only issuing annual budget
  • Better reporting concerning projects which are faced with obstacles
  • Address significant discrepancies in internal controls related to calculation, recording, and prevention of overpayments
  • Improved threat and vulnerability management, IT oversight, and access controls

 

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