History of SSA During the Johnson Administration 1963-1968



Getting Ready for Legislation

In anticipation of the 1967 amendments, Commissioner Ball requested in the fall of 1966 that all operational elements make an evaluation of their state of readiness for the soon-to-be proposed social security legislation. These evaluations were to include steps being taken to have present regular program workloads in the best possible shape by the middle of January 1967, plans to reduce backlogs, and emergency measures that might be necessary to process increased workloads. Major areas of concern and some of the measures taken to prepare the Social Security Administration for the difficult times ahead are outlined below.

Summary of Planning Binder Activities

The Administrative Planning Binder was updated regularly to reflect changes in the Bill as it passed through the legislative machinery and provided top management with a current up-to-date picture of the Administration's activities and fitness for immediate implementation of the amendment provisions.

The updating of the Administrative Planning Binder continued after passage of the bill through the final stages of implementation of most of the provisions. Those provisions involving long-term studies or work projects continued for some time and were monitored by the components having "lead" responsibility. During the time the planning binder was in effect, i.e., April 1967 through April 1968, a total of 21 transmittals covering over 1,540 pages of updated material were issued to all binder holders.

The Payment Center Problem

Initial claims taking and processing more than doubled in the year following the 1965 amendments going from an annual rate of 3.5 million claims to about 8.5 million. Additional work resulted from the benefit increase included in the 1965 amendments. Some 700,000 claims of a new type were added in the fall of 1966 as a result of the so-called Prouty amendment to the tax.

The handling of these greatly increased workloads was made more difficult because it was necessary to integrate some of the new Medicare computer operations with the old cash claims operations. The greatly increased workloads and new programs were also superimposed on what had been a mayor increase in the volume of payment center operations over the last few years.

Claims Processing Backlogs

Payment center backlogs continued to be high. The payment centers referred to are six large processing offices located in Birmingham, San Francisco, Kansas City, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York.{1} Many actions were taken to alleviate the payment center difficulties. Newly a million hours of overtime were worked in the payment centers during the 1967 fiscal year. District offices were delegated authority to finally adjudicate certain initial claims. District office claims representatives were detailed to payment centers in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia where the greatest problems existed. Also, district office personnel worked overtime on Saturdays and Sundays in payment centers. Central office teams were sent to three payment centers in September 1966 to observe operations and bring back suggestions for improvements in operations.

In addition, a critical case procedure was put into effect. This procedure was designed to permit expeditious payment of those cases in which the individual has notified the Social Security Administration that dire hardships will result from an inordinate delay in payments. Processing under this procedure has been restricted to dire need cases because of special handling required and considerable risk of overpayments (a by-product of processing claims without the case folder, which reflects; the history of the claim).

Other expedients taken to relieve the high workloads were to reduce the number of reviews on certain types of low-risk actions, processing cases on the basis of age, and limiting interoffice communications, which could delay processing of the claims without adding to the integrity of the claims process.

Manpower and Space

Manpower: Considerable reliance was placed on the use of overtime for implementing the 1965 amendments, and it would again become necessary to rely on this device.

Space: Expansions of the social security program increased the need for expanded field facilities--new district offices, larger district offices (branch offices and temporary service centers), larger payment centers, etc.


The Commissioner was advised that the 1967 amendments would not have nearly as great an impact on operations and resources as did the 1965 amendments. Nevertheless, considering the strained conditions of the
Social Security Administration operations and resources and the large workloads that had to be faced, it was once again essential to have a device that would provide frequent evaluation and assessment of the Social Security Administration's overall needs so that orderly and coordinated planning could be initiated promptly. The Administrative Planning Binder first used for the 1965 amendments proved to be the required device.

Footnotes (Footnote numbers not same as in the printed version)

{1} Payment centers have the dual functions of finally approving the initial claims taken and developed in the distract offices and the updating and maintenance of the 23 million beneficiary roll (primarily a large clerical and machine operation).