Jan 9, 2008

GAO Report On Backlogs

From a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO):
Substantial growth in the numbers of disability claims, staff losses and turnover, and management weaknesses have contributed to the backlog problem. Initial applications for benefits grew more than 20 percent over the period while SSA experienced losses in key personnel: claims examiners in the state determination offices and administrative law judges and support staff in the hearings offices. In addition, management weaknesses evidenced in a number of initiatives to address the backlogs have failed to remedy and sometimes contributed to the problem.
The GAO report does not mention that GAO itself was a cheerleader for several failed initiatives at Social Security: Re-engineering, Hearing Process Improvement (HPI) and Disability Service Improvement (DSI). These initiatives have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars and have only made the backlogs worse. GAO's harping over the years on the theme of "management weakness" has been a major factor in bringing about all those failed initiatives.

Far from recognizing its own culpability, GAO seemingly questions the decision to end DSI. GAO recommends that Social Security "conduct a thorough evaluation of DSI before finalizing the agency's decision on implementation." To its credit Social Security's response to this GAO report "expressed concern that the draft report did not sufficiently emphasize SSA’s need for additional funding and noted that the success of future efforts to reduce the disability claims backlog will depend on adequate and timely agency funding."

I think it is time to paraphrase Ronald Reagan: The GAO's advice is not the solution to Social Security's problems. The GAO's advice is a major part of Social Security's problem. I recommend that the Social Security Administration quit listening to GAO, because GAO does not know what it is talking about. GAO is the one in need of a thorough evaluation of its own "management weakness."


Anonymous said...

EVERYONE who is aware of how drastically under staffed SSA is should be writing to Congress. SSA, FAA, VA, ... civilian agencies are being grossly depleted to help fund the occupation of Iraq.

Anonymous said...

What??? To fund the war??? That is so bogus...all federal agencies are VASTLY underfunded, and it is not just because of the war. DHS, SSA, IRS, VA, you name it. Sure, there is probably some waste, fraud and abuse - but those numbers are small compared to what these agencies need to do their jobs and do them well. And all the candidates running for office will never address this problem cos they will be labeled as being for big government or wanting to raise taxes.

Anonymous said...

Blaming GAO for SSA's missteps is just plain silly. GAO is just the messenger -- albeit a rather self-serving one. The real problem is that the Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibilities for SSA (and most of the other agencies as well). Despite all of the warning signs that eDib, DSI and other initiatives were not going well, Congress never asked Barnhart any tough questions -- she got a blank check throughout her tenure. We are now paying the bill.