The Chairman of the House Social Security Subcommittee asked the agency's Office of Inspector General (OIG) to review Social Security's Vision 2025 plan. Here's a summary of the OIG report:
Vision 2025 does not include specific, measurable goals or outline the strategy needed to implement SSA's proposed vision. It presents three priorities: superior customer experience, exceptional employees, and innovative organization. Per SSA, these priorities will guide the development of clear goals, detailed plans, and performance measures, which will be outlined in the Agency’s strategic plans and annual performance reports. With this approach, SSA is using short-term strategic planning documents to support a broadly stated “aspirational vision.” We believe SSA’s long-term strategic vision should include specific, measurable goals that clearly outline the service delivery model SSA envisions in 2025 and beyond. This would allow SSA to use its shorter- term planning documents to outline the steps needed to achieve a larger and clearly defined objective.
Also, while Vision 2025 describes its future environmental drivers, it does not explain how the environmental factors will affect its ability to provide services in the future. Additionally, Vision 2025 addresses many of the issues outlined in NAPA’s [National Academy of Public Administration's] long-range strategic plan for SSA, but NAPA’s plan is more specific than Vision 2025. Most importantly, NAPA concluded that SSA needs to develop a more cost- effective service delivery system that is primarily virtual. Vision 2025 does not choose one service delivery method over another and promises a service delivery system that will meet each customer’s desire.Let me try to make this easier to understand. Republicans in Congress (and some Democrats) as well as NAPA are frustrated with Social Security. In their view, the current service delivery model, which includes field offices around the country, is inefficient, wasteful and delivers poor service. They don't understand why the agency doesn't move all of its operations online, eliminate its field offices and lay off most of its staff. That's the "vision" they want from the agency. In Social Security's view, this criticism comes from people who have only the most simplistic idea of what the agency does. These critics envision Social Security as dealing mostly with simple retirement claims and mostly with capable people who can do business online. In reality, while retirement claims involve lots of money and lots of claims, they are only a small part of what the agency does. Most of what the agency does has to do with disability claims, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims and survivor claims. These cases are inherently complicated and the claimants are often seriously impaired. There's no realistic way to put this workload online. There's no realistic way to eliminate field offices.
Let my give a simple example of the problems that Social Security must cope with. The daughter of an 85 year old woman who is drawing Social Security retirement benefits contacts the agency to say that she believes that her mother is no longer mentally capable of handling her money and needs a representative payee. Someone at the agency contacts the mother who says that she certainly is still capable of handling her money and that the daughter is a drug addict who just wants to steal the Social Security benefits. The person talking with the mother and daughter isn't sure what to do. The mother sounds a little addled but is her condition so bad that she can't handle money? Is the daughter a drug addict? Even if she isn't, is she the best representative payee since it's obvious that the mother and daughter aren't getting along? Is there someone else in the family who could be a representative payee? How is the agency going to deal with this situation only through an online process? Are you really comfortable with someone who is 3,000 miles away investigating this situation and making a decision about what to do? How would you feel about this if this situation was happening in your family?