Browsing: Social Security Administration

Busy signals drop dramatically at Social Security Administration

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People who need to make a call to the Social Security Administration’s 800 number system (there are several 800 numbers offered to members of the public for SSA services) might have noticed that its been easier to get through to a live person. The average busy signal rate has fallen from 8.1 percent of calls in fiscal 2009 to 2.6 percent of calls in 2011, according to data recently posted to Data.gov by the agency. In all three years the time of the year when you are most likely to get a busy signal includes the months of December and…

Association of Government Accountants honors agency reporting

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Twenty agencies big and small were recently noted for top-notch financial and performance reporting by the Association of Government Accountants. The “Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting” (CEAR)  singles out “high-quality Performance and Accountability Reports (PARs) and Annual Financial Reports (AFRs) that effectively illustrate and assess financial and program performance, accomplishments and challenges, cost and accountability,” the accountants association said in a news release. The association also spotlights the teams of dedicated federal professionals who (often unsung) put the reports together. “Given the fiscal status of the United States government and the public’s perceptions about government fiscal accountability and transparency,…

Former Social Security chief happy to reclaim free speech rights from OMB

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In a radio interview last week, former Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue voiced regret at leaving behind a workforce that he described as “very dedicated” and talented. Astrue, who stepped down earlier this month, was happier at no longer having to run his every statement—even including proposed messages to SSA employees about sequestration—past minders at the Office of Management and Budget. “I don’t miss having everything I say being cleared by a 28-year-old at OMB,” Astrue told WBUR, a National Public Radio member station in Boston. “And I’m not critical of OMB for that. Don’t get me wrong. I…

Despite expired term, SSA Commissioner Astrue still working

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For anyone who’s wondering, Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue remains on the job, even though his six-year term officially ran out last Saturday. In an email today, SSA spokeswoman Kia Anderson cited the federal law that allows Astrue to stay until the Senate confirms his successor. Given that President Obama has yet to even nominate a possible replacement, Astrue could continue to lead the agency for some time to come. Also remaining in place is Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Colvin. Astrue, a Massachusetts lawyer and published poet (how many top-level feds can claim that kind of life experience?), was named…

AFGE mounting nationwide protests tomorrow

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The American Federation of Government Employees is rallying tomorrow against Social Security Administration cutbacks. The union, which represents some 28,000 employees in SSA field offices and tele-service centers, is using the lunchtime gatherings to protest the continued use of attrition to reduce the workforce and cutting the hours that field offices are open to the public. The rallies will take place at about 80 offices around the country, including the Social Security Administration’s Baltimore headquarters, according to Witold Skwierczynski, president of AFGE’s National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals. The Social Security Administration has been under a partial hiring freeze…

Mailings of Social Security benefits statements suspended (again)

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Tight money has again led the Social Security Administration to halt the mailing of all paper statements of earnings and benefits to millions of Americans. These are the handy documents that give you an idea of what to expect in terms of Social Security retirement or disability income. The latest suspension, which took effect Oct. 1, results from the “overall budget situation,” including a stop-gap continuing resolution that will leave the agency at last year’s funding levels through March, spokeswoman Kia Anderson said. SSA officials had originally suspended mailing paper statements in April 2011 to save $70 million annually. This…

SSA's CIO overhaul lacked adequate planning, GAO says

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The Social Security Administration did not fully assess the impact of a major internal overhaul last June, which eliminated the chief information office and reassigned its functions, according to testimony from a Government Accountability Office official.   At the time, most of the responsibilities for managing information technology and the IT budget were reassigned to SSA’s Office of Systems. Two months later, then CIO Frank Baitman resigned. Kelly Croft, deputy commissioner for systems, assumed the CIO duties and oversight of those IT workers.   SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue said the effort would increase efficiency, but SSA did not develop a management plan…

Social Security payments will go out on time

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Social Security payments scheduled for Wednesday will be disbursed on time, Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue announced Tuesday. Up until late last week, it wasn’t clear if lawmakers would strike a deal to increase the debt limit, causing concern for recipients of Social Security and VA benefits who probably would not have received payments. Payments set for Aug. 10, 17th and 24th will also go out on time.   “I am happy to announce there will be no delay in the payment of August Social Security benefits,” said Astrue, “which should be a relief to those people who were concerned about their…

Social Security Administration trimming public office hours

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Another cost-cutting move is in the works at the Social Security Administration, where almost 1,300 field offices will soon begin closing to the public one half hour earlier each business day. The change, which takes effect Aug. 15, means that an office that has been open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will close to the public at 3:30, according to a news release. Although Social Security employees will keep working their normal schedules, the “shorter public window” will help the agency avoid paying overtime, SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue said in the release. Because Congress provided the…

SSA CIO announces resignation

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Frank Baitman, chief information officer at the Social Security Office will resign Aug. 19, the agency confirmed Monday.   SSA would not say why Baitman is leaving, but his resignation comes three weeks after SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue announced several organizational changes, including moving the Offices of Innovation and Investment Management from the CIO office to the Office of Systems. Astrue said the changes will maximize efficiency “during these lean budget times.”   Kelly Croft, Deputy Commissioner for Systems, will take on the CIO duties, and workers from the CIO office and the Office of Information Security will move to the…

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