President George W. Bush: Resources for the President's Team The White House
President George W. Bush meets with Dan Bartlett, center, and Josh Bolten in the Oval Office Jan. 9, 2003.  White House photo by Eric Draper.
The Deputy Director for Mgmt
PMA updates, best practices, and general information.
Grading Implementation of the PMA.
Human Capital
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Commercial Services Management
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Improving Financial Performance
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Performance Improvement
Initiative updates, best practices, and general information.
Sharing Best Practices
Stories of achieving breaktrough results in government.
Department Updates


The President's Management Agenda: Getting to Green

SSA Seal Social Security touches nearly every American. More than 154 million workers pay Social Security taxes, and more than 50 million people receive monthly Social Security retiree, disability and survivor and Supplementary Security Income (SSI) benefit payments. Social Security accounts for about one fourth of the entire federal budget. On average, each workday about 100,000 people visit one of our 1,500 field offices, more than 240,000 people call our national 800-telephone number and about 100,000 people visit That's why it's important to manage what we do better.

The President's Management Agenda (PMA) will help us reach this goal. We have integrated the PMA into our 5 year budget, annual performance plan, SES performance measures and our new strategic plan, which we call the "4 S's." The 4 S's are Service, Stewardship, Solvency and Staff.

Internally, we communicate our progress on the President's Management Agenda on an intranet website entitled "Getting to Green."

Human Capital

Challenge: We estimate that more than half of the Social Security Administration's current workforce will retire or leave by 2010. This loss of experienced staff will take place at the same time that our workloads are reaching record levels. Once the nation's baby boomers begin to retire, more than 10,000 people will be applying for Social Security benefits each day. And this will continue for years to come. The bottom line: increasing workloads and our own "retirement wave" will stretch our capabilities to the limit and could affect our ability to provide quality service to the American people.

Solution: We are actively recruiting new employees from every source we can. This includes both traditional sources, like colleges and universities, and non-traditional sources, like organizations that seek employment for the disabled. We are looking for employees with the skill sets we need, including people who speak the languages of those who will be applying for benefits. We are visiting college campuses to recruit students with technology and communication skills, and we are offering higher than starting-level pay, where needed, to attract systems analysts. We are offering early retirements to smooth out the retirement wave. This way, we can recruit younger workers that we'll need and begin training them for future challenges.

Challenge:    Massive retirement wave.
Solution:    Recruiting at competitive salaries and redeploying staff from headquarters to direct service.
Challenge:    Processing two million disability claims manually.
Solution:    Automation.
Challenge:    Billions in erroneous payments.
Solution:    Preventing them from going out in the first place, and reporting on them regularly.
In FY 2002, we hired 3,206 new employees, and most have been placed in direct service jobs, which represent over 83% of our workforce. We are redeploying some of our experienced headquarters staff to direct service, front-line positions and training them for their new roles. By the time we're through, we will have increased personnel providing direct service by over 5% while decreasing administrative staff by over 5%. We are also accelerating leadership and development programs, as part of an overall succession planning initiative, so we have the skills we need to manage our operations. Our goal: a smooth and measured transfer of program knowledge and professional skills to new employees as we prepare for the "retirement wave."

Expanded Electronic Government (e-gov)

Challenge: This year we will receive more than two million claims for disability payments. We will also conduct more than a half-million reviews of disability claims we initially denied. It is a difficult, complex process and citizens can sometimes wait years for a final disability decision. One reason: in the 21st century, we still use a 19th century, paper-intensive process to organize, store, transmit, and track claims folders and medical evidence. Claims folders move slowly from desk to desk and through the mail, causing delays and, sometimes, lost claims.

Solution: We are implementing an electronic disability process. Through this online process, an electronic folder will replace the six-part paper folder now in use, which will cut processing times and reduce pending workloads. Because using technology is such a vital part of making needed improvements in the disability program, we've moved up the agency's timetable for having the disability process online from seven years to 22 months, meaning that we will begin rolling it out in 2004. The Disability Application is already online.

There was no secret to reengineering this process or accelerating the timeline for implementation. Top level commitment, a senior level project management team that included all the key players in the organization, and a serious commitment of necessary resources made the difference.

Reducing Erroneous Payments

Challenge: With annual payments approaching one-half trillion dollars, there is a high risk of erroneous payments. The complex SSI program alone makes over $2 billion in erroneous payments per year. Our challenge is to put in place the necessary controls to prevent erroneous payments from being made in the first place.

Solution: We developed a multi-pronged SSI Correction Action Plan with a combination of short, medium and long-term improvements. These improvements included system, regulatory, legislative, procedural, and management reporting changes as well as assigning explicit executive accountability for results.

For example, to prevent erroneous payments from occurring, we are encouraging greater use of information technology by SSA to collect and transmit information about beneficiaries to reduce the number of changes recipients must report separately.

In order to ensure we are paying the right benefit to the right person, we are matching our records with other Federal and State agencies and nursing homes. For those changes that cannot be reported via electronic interface, we are making it easier for recipients to report changes to us. For instance, we are testing the ability of employers to report monthly wage information via touch-tone telephone. Our progress is so significant that GAO removed SSI from its 2003 High Risk list.

With status grades of four yellows and only one red, Social Security is a PMA leader, but we realize that we have a long way to go to get to green. Everything we are doing will keep the focus on our overriding goal—to produce results for the American public by improving service and stewardship.

James B. Lockhart
Deputy Commissioner of Social Security

Department Updates:

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