The SSA’s field offices served about 20 million visitors in fiscal 2020, only about half the level of prior years as the agency “limited its field office operations to in-person service by appointment only for certain dire need situations and maximized telework,” an IG report has said.
The agency made up for that in part by pushing the availability of online services such as “my Social Security” accounts, which are growing by about 7 million a year and are now above 53 million, it said. Also, after initially decreasing the hours that callers can speak to employees on its 800 number the SSA increased the hours and “is implementing other improvements to its call center processes, including expanding management information, enhancing speech analytics and implementing post-call surveys for customers who used automated services.”
The agency meanwhile hired and trained more than 13,000 new employees in to support the 800-number operations “and will continue efforts to replace staffing losses and hire additional employees,” it said.
The latter issue is especially important, it said, because one of the agency’s “greatest challenges is the expected loss of its most experienced employees. SSA expects that more than 21,000 of its 62,000 employees will retire within the next five years. These retirements, along with regular attrition, will cause a loss of institutional knowledge and potentially impair succession management and knowledge transfer.”
Along with service delivery, the IG named as major challenges for SSA improving the administration of the disability program; minimizing payment errors and improving management of payment workloads; and modernizing its IT and securing information systems.