SSA History Archives
Milt Freedman receiving an award from Roy Swift.1952.
SSA History Archives
Freedman in early 1960, shortly after being named Chief of the Technical Services Branch in the Division of Claims Policy.
SSA History Archives
Milton Freedman worked for Social Security starting in 1939. He was for many years an important official in SSA's quality assurance program.
HISTORICAL INTERVIEW WITH MILTON FREEDMAN
January 18, 1974
By: O. R. Garcia
Freedman: The Social Security Board was set up as a result of the 1955 Social Security Act to start operating to pay claims January 1937. And that course, also is the date they started to collect social security taxes. Originally it was a three-man board and I think they were bipartisan, I guess, you know some of that. But we never did get around to implement that 1935 Act because we started out by paying small lump-sum payments of 3.5 percent of the cumulative credits an individual had, and then in the middle of 1939 the law was amended. Beginning January 1940 we paid monthly benefit cases and that 1939 Act cut off the payment of these small lump-sum payments (which were really a return on the contributions) as of January 1940 at the same time. So what happened is that we beefed up our adjudicative staff in 1939 in advance of the January 1940 implementation date for monthly benefits, and that's when I came in.
I was hired at that time, in November I think it was, and I reported in December and went to a training class for a couple of weeks as an adjudicator, although we couldn't be called adjudicators in those days because there was a legal restriction that nobody could--I don't know, there was one year in which everything was frozen so even though I was a grade 4 at the Department of Justice, FBI, I had to come in as a grade-3 control clerk. And actually, I was a grade 3 until June of 1940, the end of June, when this--I think they called it the Byrnes Act--died, that 1-year moratorium on everything. And then within one pay period I got four grade raises because by that time I had been promoted. The job I came in was a grade-5 job. They called me a control clerk, grade 3, but we were adjudicators. We also helped out as control clerks.
There were no other control clerks. We had quite an imposing group of control clerks. I remember I trained people like Gene Brees to be a control clerk. He came in after me. And I was trained in turn by pretty important people like Eddie Watman and people like that. We took our turns being control clerks. But meanwhile I had been promoted from an adjudicator, which was a grade 5, to a reviewer, grade 7. The thing is we had no field adjudication at that time; everything was centralized in Washington. All adjudication of claims was centralized in Washington. The field contacted the public but they made no decisions and actually, except to the extent that they happened to get some experience by memoranda and things of that nature, they didn't try to exercise too much judgment in knowing the extent to which they would complete the claims. They had application forms, they had the people fill them out. They'd tell them that they had to get some kind of evidence of age, lag wages from the employer and that's about what it amounted to. Then we started after a while to get some death cases so we needed proof of death, marriage. They had a list of the kinds of evidence and some little guidelines, but nothing official. There was no Claims Manual for them or anything like that. So they sent the papers in. At that time they would send the papers in. Now in order to adjudicate it, they had no idea what the earnings records were because they never got them from Baltimore.
Q.: They were little more than interviewers then.
Freedman: But they were called claims clerks; what we call today claims representatives were referred to as claims clerks in those days. And they would take the papers and send them into Washington. At the same time they would send a notice to Baltimore, the old Accounting Operations Division, where the record was, saying that they had sent a claim and we would wait in Washington for the records to come from Baltimore and put them together with the paper coming from the field. We'd have a grade 5 adjudicate it and complete the same form we use today, the Determination of Award, 101. It didn't look the same, but it was the same kind of a thing; or a 201 denial. And he would fill it out longhand, that is where we started, and make all the decisions. In fact, for the first month or two after we started, there was nobody who even did such things as summarize the first check, so that on the bottom of the first 101 I remember, a big long form, 101, when we got to the end of January, beginning in February, you had to pay for January and February. So we added it together. We figured the monthly benefit and what the first check would be and indicated what the first check would be as a summary. That shortly became a separate operation of post Entitlement implementation. But at that time we did it all from the beginning when we started. Then it would go to a reviewer. We had four Claims Units in that time with the whole country cut into four pieces. I was in Unit 3 which basically included what's now the Chicago Region, Cleveland Region, and I guess part of the Kansas City Region.
Q.: Do you remember how the other three regions were distributed?
Freedman: Yes, pretty much. Unit 1 was basically New England and New York. Unit 2 was Mid-Atlantic and the South. Unit 3 was the bulk of the Midwest-Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, a lot of others. And Unit 4 was the West Coast. That was the way it was.
The reviewer would be (when I started, geographically we were over in the Potomac Park Apartments,) either in the next room or in the same room and there was a very very simple rapport between the adjudicator and the reviewer. The reviewer's responsibility was to review the cases that came to him and if he found an error he charged it and brought it over to you and bawled you out or trained you on whatever had to be done. And at the end of the day he would fill out a report on how many cases he did (we all filled out a report, a little strip of paper which we handed in) and he would indicate who he charged errors to. That's the way we collected data. And you could argue with him, argue him out of it. It was a simple thing. So the reviewer was a grade 7 and the adjudicator was a grade 5. And as I started to say before, before July 1940 and some time--I forget when it was; maybe April, something like that, I was promoted from adjudicator to reviewer. I had already gone through the training and on the job and so on. This was from January 1940 when we started getting cases. By March or April I had been promoted to a reviewer but I couldn't get the money; I was still a grade 3. So as soon as the Byrnes Act was over as of July 1, I think, the new fiscal year, one payday they gave me my grade-5 money and the next payday they gave me my grade-7 money. I remember that, the quickest I've ever moved any place.
Q.: Your job here, what division or organization was it in?
Freedman: All right. Now the Social Security Board had a Claims Division.
Q.: That's what you were in.
Freedman: Yes. And the Claims Division had four units.
Q.: That would be units 1, 2, 3, and 4?
Freedman: Yes, 1, 2, 3, and 4, when I started. Shortly thereafter they set up a Control Division. This was rather early in 1940 but it wasn't there when I started because I remember operating without it. And they took some of us--I remember Charlie Erisman, Dick Branham, and a couple of other people--and they put them in the Control Division. And that Control Division was the forerunner of what we call today the post-entitlement aspect of the work. And they started to pick up all these controls. See, once you got past January then you had all these things where people were moving, people were dying. We had no annual retirement test; it was a monthly retirement test. At first, if they reported they worked for more than $14.99 a month--imagine, that was the retirement test, $14.99 a month--so $15, you lost your entire month's benefit. Of course the benefit was $10 in many cases. The maximum benefit was $40 plus increments in years; you got 1 percent more for each year of coverage. So in January 1940 you would have possibly been able to get--'37, '38, '39, '40--so four times this is about $41.60. And the actual maximum you could get under the law was $44 a month for one beneficiary. The minimum was $10. And we paid mostly minimal cases. To get $40 plus the increments, which was for each year of service, you had to be what we called the $3,000-a-year man, and that was the wealthy man. The $3,000-a year-man, this is what everybody looked forward to, the $3,000-a-year man. And we considered that those guys we didn't have to worry about, they were the rich fat cats, you see.
Q.: What would their salary be today?
Freedman: I'm talking about the coverage. Now as far as salaries, I'm not talking about our salaries.
Q.: $3,000 a year?
Freedman: $3,000 a year is the maximum wage base that was covered under social security. They were the wealthy. I'm talking about presidents of corporations and stuff. You know the President of Armour and Company ,let's say, came in to file. He was a $3,000-a-year man. We didn't worry about those fat cats, paying them. We worried about the $10. Oh, as far as our salaries, grade 3-
Q.: Excuse me. I meant what would that be equal to today?
Freedman: Today it's $12,400. This month it goes up, what's it, $12,800? The wage base today. And it's still considered regressive. It wasn't considered regressive in those days.
Q.: Nobody was making it.
Freedman: Nobody was making that. See, one of the things that Bob Ball has always argued is that the wage base should keep up percentage-wise with what it was in the beginning; that is, what percentage of the working population was getting the maximum, and that should remain, so that if say only 15 or 20 percent of the people were getting the maximum in those days at $3,000 then we should set the wage base high enough so we only pay the maximum to 15 to 20 percent of the working force today, you know, that kind of the argument.
Q.: So anyway you had this Claim Division and you've got a Control Division. Was all this still in Washington?
Freedman: Yes, this is all in Washington. Aside from that we had--well, there were little pieces that were added on. Those were the two major pieces, the Claims and the Control Divisions. The Control Division started very small and kept on growing as more and more post-entitlement activities started to grow. We had a Policy Group which also were a couple of claims people that were put in there under Joe Columbus who later became Chief of the area office in San Francisco, then retired. But that Policy Group had three or four people. They wrote the whole Claims Manual. The Claims Manual was about 35 pages when I came in, and it was mimeographed. And we were a progressive outfit for a while--for a good while--because this lasted at least a year. We each got our own copies of all General Counsel's opinions if we made submittals to the General Counsel. And I had to keep my own card file. There was no indexing or anything. We indexed our own files in our desk drawer. We had very little in the way of precedent files. I always tell the story to classes that one of the things that impressed me when I started to work is that--by the way, my unit chief was Mandel Benjamin who later became Chief of the Payment Center at the area office in Chicago for a number of years and also worked in the Central Office. And he was a very excitable little man, very bright, very brilliant man, and short, and talked fast, and had a little moustache. I remember Benjy coming in and saying, "if anybody's got any kind of cases of such and such that involve illegitimate children," or that involve adopted case, that involve common-law marriage, "put them aside, we're going to have new guidelines for you." And so if you had any you'd put them in a corner of your desk. And then maybe 2 hours later he'd come in and say, "anybody have any cases involving wage supplemental payments by the Spicer Manufacturing Company in Ohio? We have a question on it; put them aside." I didn't know at the beginning where these questions arose, but these were questions that had been asked on individual cases that had been escalated up to the unit chief and he took it up at a meeting with Lou Lang who was then the chief honcho of this claims group. And they'd say, well, we have to submit it to the General Counsel for legal opinion or we have to do some research on it or writing out for some information, so you'd better tell everybody to hold up on any cases they might have like that. Well, they would run through the four units and tell everybody. When they had an answer, then they'd come in and say we have the answer. They would tell it to you and you'd pull those cases off your desk. But pretty soon you've got piles of all kinds of things that are on you desk. You had just piles of different kinds of cases around. This would straighten out after a while, but you had an awful lot of autonomy operating.
We also, as I say, had this very small Policy Group who wrote the Claims Manual. And then along about the middle of 1940, I think it was, spring or summer of 1940, they set up what they called a Legal Contact Group. And that was whenever we had a legal question, which mostly were family relationship questions or coverage and wage issues instead of each individual doing what we were doing up to that point which was undertake the full development of the precedent by himself--you know, write out that you did everything yourself--we had gotten to the point where there was a chance that somebody else had researched this already and there was an answer. So we started to pull together precedents into one legal contact file. And Mercia Leton who is now-
Freedman: Mercia Leton Kahn, then known as Mercia Leton, was in charge of that. And one of the people that she took pretty early from our unit was Gene Brees. He went over there. (I think maybe a little earlier they had set up also a special Coverage Unit that sort of expertised in the coverage area and you could either call them or send your case down for finding on the coverage aspects, not and adjudication, but a finding and they'd send it back to you and you'd kick off the case.) And I think Ted Litwin was in the Legal Reference Unit too, as I recall, for some time.
Freedman: Yes. There are probably other names that I could think of that went in and out of those groups. But it was done rather informally and there was no obligation to your just talking to one of them and deciding what the coverage issue was. However, we started to get a little bit busy. They'd say, hey, we're getting a backlog, put it on a form and we'll get it back to you as soon as we get around to it. So this was the rudimentary kind of submittals and things like that where you started to expand. But even then we grew and the workload grew within a year, with all this stuff within a year or two, and we then broke into what we called subunits. Each of these units then were broken into three subunits. The subunits were merely divided on the number of people, you know, supervisory span. You didn't have account numbers assigned. The account number assignments were still on a unit basis, geographical basis. Sub-unit supervisors were people like Ben Shanzer--let me see. Lou Zawatzky was an Assistant Unit Chief and Gus Meyers was an Assistant Unit Chief. Sub-unit Chiefs were--I can think of several of them but I don't think you're familiar with their names. Anyhow, we still had the two grades in those sub-units--grade 5 and grade 7. Then after Pearl Harbor which, as you recall, was December 1940--
Freedman: '41, I'm sorry, December '41. The President, President Roosevelt, was pushing hard to get non-defense agencies out of Washington. And finally we were ordered to leave Washington. And they looked around for someplace where we could move to. I think there were several considerations. One consideration I remember was should we move to Baltimore where our accounting operations were. I guess you know why we were in Baltimore. It was because it was the nearest place to Washington where we could find a big enough building with strong enough floors to house the keypunch machines we had at that time. That's what we were doing in the Candler Building.
Q.: This implies that at the time you all were in Washington that there was still a social security function being performed here in Baltimore.
Freedman: There always was from the beginning.
Q.: Oh, from the beginning.
Freedman: From the beginning we couldn't find a building with heavy enough floor load or whatever you call it in the city of Washington to support the machines that we said we were going to put in that Joe Fay wanted.
Q.: What division was here in Baltimore? Accounting Operations?
Freedman: Only the Accounting Operations Division. And of course most of their work was collecting the wage reports and posting them. Certifying from the records was very minor in fact.
Q.: How big an operation would you say they had at that time?
Freedman: It was a good part of the Candler Building that they had until they moved to this building here, you know, the Operations Building here. They had a big operation. At least I remember coming over for a training course early in 1940 and I thought it was big, but maybe my perspective is cockeyed. It seemed to be rather large. They were always a big kind of a thing. I guess we also had a field operations too. But we didn't consider those as part of the claims in any way. I was talking about the Claims Division and Control Division as being part of the claims related payment. Obviously in the first few years it was a question of starting up and collecting records; it wasn't a question of paying out. Paying out was very minimal. But beginning January 1940 the claims paying kind of a thing and the claims taking kind of function started to mushroom.
Q.: So the President ordered-
Freedman: Yes, get out. Actually it was rather strange because they had built a building for us in Washington, and that is the present HEW North Building that they built for us. It was originally supposed to be called the Social Security Building. But by the time that came around they had, I believe, started the Federal Security Agency. My recollection of sequence is probably out a little bit. At any rate, war agencies took over that building right away, whether it was the Office of Price Administration or OPA, or OPM. Those are the initials I remember, one of those, something like that, that needed that space. So they preempted us. So then we had no building to move to in Washington. We were in rented space. Originally, as I started to say earlier, we had been at the Potomac Park Apartments.
Q.: Are they still standing, by the way?
Freedman: The Potomac Park Apartments is down. It's across from Foggy Bottom and they've got highways and so on. I was just there a couple of weeks ago. Where Foggy Bottom is, the State Department now, was an apartment house there that Gus Myers lived in for example. And one of my fondest recollections is looking out the window and seeing a blast take this $2 million apartment house--and Gus was I think crying practically at that time when he saw his apartment go up. It was one of these things where they got the expert to put the dynamite in it and they blew it all up in one piece and in 10 minutes this beautiful structure was gone--and then we watched them lay the foundations for Foggy Bottom. That was beautiful because every time they started to sink something they ran into water and then they'd have to put concrete in. I don't think we did much work; we watched an awful lot of construction out of those windows. So we were down at this Potomac Park Apartments when all this thing happened. And then later on we moved to 1825 H Street which still exists. But I think it's now called 917 (the entrance is around the corner) so it's called 917 19th street or 18th street. As a matter of fact, BHA was in it for a while a few years ago and I visited there. It didn't look the same any more. But that was 1825 H St. back then. That was an office building not 1 Potomac Park Apartments. What happened, things were mushrooming in Washington at that time so fast that they'd take either existing apartment houses or apartment houses that were being built and preempt them from private industry, take it over, and move Government agencies into them. So, for example, at Potomac Park Apartments there were no restroom facilities for men and women. They were the bathrooms that were the bathrooms of the apartments. And you went in and you took the whole thing for yourself. You put a little latch on the door and you had a whole bathroom. They took out the tubs and the shower. They took out the sinks from the kitchen but you could see where they were in many cases, and you know, you had office space in there. So you might have had a little private office because they put you in the kitchen, a small kitchen or kitchenette, or you might be in a big office if you were in the living room or something like that. They knocked down some walls in some places. It was a strange environment but very homey, very cozy, and we loved it. We used to go to some dive around the corner for lunch I remember. It was rather on the expensive side. I think it cost us 15 or 20 cents for a four-course dinner, lunch, or something like that. Well that's neither here nor there. That's getting off the track.
Then after we moved to 1825 H and then we were supposed to go into this new Social Security Building when it was preempted, the question arose, would they find a place for us in Baltimore so we would be together at least with the (that was one of the alternatives) Accounting Operations because we had a lot of paper, going back and forth, or could we find some other place to centralize. And we weren't the only ones. A lot of Government agencies were being pushed out. The Patent Office was moved to Richmond. The Bureau of Employees Compensation, I remember, which was then the Employees Compensation Commission was moved to New York. And it was just a question of getting you out of Washington. Well it was debated and debated and Oscar Pogge, who was then in charge of the Claims Division--I just remembered I didn't mention the fact that there was the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance too, that the Bureau Director was John Corson when I came in, and AOD and these others were part of the Bureau but not part of our Claims Division; Pogge was in charge of that. At any rate, Oscar Pogge was telling us that he wasn't selling his house yet, we weren't going to move, when the announcement came that the decision had been made that instead of trying to find a building to house us all---(the assumption being that we would move back after the war, not that we were going to leave for good; this was the assumption of most agencies--) that they decided that it might be better to split us into five area offices. And really, that decision when it was made, is the forerunner of what we have today.
Q.: That would be the payment centers now?
Freedman: Yes. The area offices were what became the Payment Centers, now the Program Centers. The five area offices where they selected them, the first one, we moved into in Philadelphia in June of 1942. The second one was in New York in July. I think probably I should say they moved the end of May to Philadelphia I think it was, but they actually were supposed to start, let's say, June 1st; and July 1st in New York. They staggered it. I don't remember the rest of the sequence but the five at that time, which you may know, were Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and New Orleans.
Q.: And they did the same functions that previous-
Freedman: Now wait. What they did then was combine the Claims Division and the Control Division into a Claims Control Division, and the Headquarters staff, the top staff of the Claims Control Division along with some other little staff offices like the Policy Group and the Legal Reference Group and the Coverage Group and some others were stationed in Baltimore in the old Equitable Building downtown. So the compromise was to move the Headquarters of the Bureau to Baltimore but move the bulk of the operational things which were in the Claims Division and the Control Division into these five area offices under the Baltimore headquarters. And the Bureau Director himself moved into the Equitable Building so that we now were all in Baltimore as far as Headquarters were concerned, of the Bureau, because AOD was already here, the Accounting Operations Division, in the Candler Building; they remained there. But the rest of the Headquarters was in the Equitable Building downtown.
At the same time the district offices, which were then called field offices, were gaining more and more facility in avoiding write backs because the only way they learned anything was on the individual requests for evidence that we used to send back from Washington up to that point. And we'd go back and forth on individual cases until we were satisfied with that case. And then when the adjudicator was satisfied and signed off on it, it went to the reviewer and he might want to ask you to write out once more on the case, so those cases would take a long time to get paid; I guess they must have taken a long time to get paid. I know I visited a district office; they sent me out in 1941 for 10 days, 2 weeks, something like that.
Q.: They weren't of course called district offices.
Freedman: No; they were called field offices.
Q.: Field offices.
Freedman: Yes, at that time. And those people were learning things. The real technicians though were what they called the field representatives, not the claims people. The field reps were sort of the assistants to the--you had the manager and maybe an assistant manager in a larger office and then the field reps were the top people as far as technical stuff is concerned. They did quite the same thing they do today as far as speeches and soon.
But you took as many cases out of office as you did in, depending upon where you worked. But the claims representatives, or whatever they called them then, who had actually come up from clerical ranks looked to these college graduate types that we had in the field rep positions for the answers to most of these things. And by and large I found them quite knowledgeable and they had learned a lot. And they were running the program so much there so that it was only sort of a natural kind of transition to say, "Look, why don't we have the district office (field office at that time) since they're collecting all the evidence and they're getting so smart, give them the added responsibility of filling out the award form or disallowance form" and then it will save you from having it adjudicated in the--first it was in Washington but now we were moving out to the area offices, you see. We could eliminate that grade-5 job. And actually I remember quite well, I was up in New York; (I was sent to New York. We were asked our choice of where to go to and I went up to New York.) I remember running the study of trying to see whether the field could do this or not; they had some kind of study. And I, of course, came to the conclusion they couldn't possibly do it; they made too many errors. I found hundreds of errors and I remember going over to the regional office which ran the field and talking to the regional representative in New York, a fellow by the name of Hugh F. McKenna. He asked me how the study was going and I said, "They can't do it." And he said, "Oh?" And he was very patient while I told him how terrible the field adjudication was, how many errors they made, how many failures to follow instructions. But, thank goodness, my reaction wasn't typical. We decided then that basically unless there were unadjudicated cases, that the district office would adjudicate it and sign off on it, but the real responsibility for adjudication was the authorizer (we called them claims reviewer then I think, still) in the Payment Center, the Area Office at that time. And that's the reason why until we went to DOFA (District Court of Final Authorization) just a couple of years ago, there was no authority in the district offices for approving the decision. It was just a pro-forma thing; the legal authority was in the Program Centers all these years.
Q.: You mentioned Hugh McKenna as being a regional representative in New York. What was he regional representative of?
Freedman: Well, you see, the regional representative was only of field organization because there was nothing else that was the-
Q.: Would you say like a regional commissioner then?
Freedman: Well if you want to say that. Yes, of course, they had a regional director. The transition was--and we would have to look up the times--went from a Social Security Board to a Federal Security Agency which encompassed Social Security Administration as well as others.
Q.: Paul McNutt?
Freedman: Well he started--there was--Oscar Ewing is the one I remember. And then to the HEW when the first secretary was that woman from Texas. What's her name? Hobby.
Q.: Oveta Culp Hobby.
Freedman: Oveta Culp Hobby. Eisenhower, yes, started on that.
Q.: But that wasn't until about '53.
Freedman: Yes. So in between you have the Federal Security Agency. It started, I think, in 1939; I'm not sure of the exact time. I'm not sure of the exact transitional point. And the Social Security Administration at that point, you realize, was way way beyond title II. I mean the Social Security Administration was all aspects of the Social Security Act. And as a matter of fact, Arthur Altmeyer, who was the first Secretary to the Board and then became Chairman of the Board--maybe I'm wrong about him being Secretary--but he was Chairman of the Board when I knew him, and then became the first Commissioner. His time, I'm sure, was taken up much more with what is now SRS business, welfare business and other things, than it was with our end of the thing. And so did his big assistants--Wilbur Cohen and Bob Myers, Roy Wyncoop, Ida Merriam, and what's his name who's been doing so many studies for us? Can't think of his name; I'll think of it in a minute.) Oh, where was I? Oh, yes.
Q.: Hugh, what was he regional-
Freedman: He was a head of the New York Region. At that time we had approximately the same number of regional staffs that we have now. You had regional directors for the Federal Security Agency and they pretty much like you have regional directors today. And they had a man for welfare, you know, and they had a man for Social Security, and they had a Federal Credit Union man and they had a regional attorney and they had a regional auditor, as I recall it. That's about it. It was a rather small staff.
Q.: What would McKenna's title have been, regional representative?
Freedman: Regional Representative of the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance. Well, one element that might be confusing. When the area offices were opened up, they were not opened up as field installations but as departmental installations, six centralized departmental, because they were still thinking of the possibility of bringing us back. I don't know when the decision was made that there was no point trying to get us back under one roof again. (I recall I was detailed to HEW in Washington in 1949 with the Bureau of Employees Compensation on some kind of a project and I remember the staff people then in Washington asking me whether it wouldn't be more efficient to have us all into one central organization again. So they must have been thinking about it over the years, that kind of thing.) We never considered ourselves part of the field organization. And the only field organization we had were the district offices and the regional office for the district offices. So the regional representative of BOASI was in charge of district offices, the field offices. That was his job. They had networks and they had assistants.
Q.: I interrupted you when you were telling Hugh that this was-
Freedman: No; I had already mentioned that they didn't listen to me and we then set up field adjudication. So with field adjudication, I remember now, I wanted to pick up in terms of this 35-page Claims Manual for example. As we went along while in Washington, we had issued after we got out of the oral instructional thing, they didn't change the Claims Manual very often but they did issue adjudication instructions and they were in sequential numbers. And there were famous adjudication instructions-like Adjudication Instruction 25 and so on which had, I think (I may be wrong; my recollection is beginning to get a little fuzzy.) But one of them I remember was the one that had all the examples of all the different kinds of 101's that there could be. There was no manual for it; those were the only guidelines you had. It was maybe a 50- or 60-page adjudication instruction, which each one of us had, and they kept changing pages in it all the time. And then there was one that told you all about the notices you sent to the claimant, all the letters, say, that you used; that was another. That was maybe 125 or something like that. They just went by numbers. And you had these adjudication instructions, and I guess we/started indexing them ourselves or maybe after awhile somebody picked up and indexed them.
So when we started to have field adjudication, then there was a need to issue some instructions to the field on completion of the 101's, you know, these things that were only in adjudication instructions. So the Claims Manual then expanded. We put out first a Field Adjudication Manual. So you have a Claims Manual which had the basic thing and the Field Adjudication Manual.
And then we still had office instructions or Adjudication Instructions, and in a few years we put those together into a three-part Claims Manual--Part I, the basic part; Part II, which was built on the Adjudication Instructions which were instructions for authorizers, and so on; and Part III, which were instructions for the field. For many many years those were the three parts of the Claims Manual, as a matter of fact until the 1960's, I think. And it didn't expand--well, no, I'm sorry. In 1954 when disability was passed, we started a Part IV for disability.
And then there were a couple of reorganizations. But basically that was it. If you look at the Claims Manual today you can still see vestiges, (you know, if you do some analysis of it the way Biblical scholars look at an analysis of the Bible, you could actually trace back why certain chapters are written the way they are, organized the way they are, or why the thing is organized based on this thing) What's Part I and II, I think, today was basically Part I which were policy statements of what the law and regulations were with a little bit of guidelines on securing evidence. But the real technical instructions on actual work process and so on, you'll find in the parts that were based on the old Part II and III, the field Instructions or the Payment Center, area difficult instructions, so then you had the framework of what you've got today.
Now getting back to the Payment Centers, or the Area Office as we called it then, I would say--this might be of interest historically to state that at least as far as the frame of mind of those of us who worked in the Area Office was concerned, we got to be pretty much teams in each Area Office after a while. Originally you had the natives in each Area Office, people who were returning to their initial habitat, and then people who were sort of forced into it because they weren't natives; they were just lucky or unlucky and got sent to that particular office. And then another thing that made it rather difficult, to get a real feel as to why people selected an office in 1942 there were a tremendous number of our employees who were in the Armed Services who never did make a selection.
Q.: What do you mean?
Freedman: They were in military service. World War II was going on. They weren't here but we had to assign them on paper to some office.
Freedman: So we arbitrarily assigned people to different offices, and then when the war was over and these guys came back, they found themselves assigned to certain places which they may or may not have wanted to go to. Sometimes it turned out well and sometimes it turned out poorly. Also at that time when they came back--and it was quite a number of years, you know. They started to come back in '44 and you had VE and then VJ Day and different groups came back after that. You had to promote them to jobs they would have had had they not been gone. I remember people coming back. By the time many of them were coming back I was at that time, had been promoted from claims authorizer to section chief, first in the old Accounting Section which included receiving and files, and then later on to what would now be the Post-Entitlement Section; we called it Disbursement and Adjustment. And they gave me a roster of people that were due back. Some of them never came back, or if they did, they didn't come back to work for Social Security; they went to work someplace else because some of them had homes in Washington and they didn't want to come up to New York even though they had been assigned. So they tried to latch on to jobs, let's say, with VA or something in Washington. There were some guys like that that I knew of. Otherwise they'd come in and Pat Hendley is one I remember. Do you know Pat Hendley here, from S&M? He's still here. I remember he came back as a supervisor of one of my sections. I don't remember whether it was a grade higher than when he left in 1940 in Washington, but of course it was quite a different thing. I remember giving him on-the-job training. I was a section chief at that time. And so on. It was quite a chore.
Meanwhile, as far as the claims authorizers were concerned, we had hired--let me go back to claims authorizers because this is an important thing. When I was hired originally in 1939, along with so many of the people division who are now top staff, into the claims division we had to be lawyers. And in fact the legal requirement that we had to be lawyers remained during the first part of the opening of the Area Offices, and we hired a fantastic number of top-grade lawyers. We have some of the smartest people we have in the organization, the best people that came in the organization, that came in, particularly women (because there was a shortage of men at that time; they were all in the service.) In New York, we had people like Helen Frankel who is now the Program Review Officer at SSI up there. She came in as a young lawyer. And it was good pay for a young lawyer; the legal profession was terrible at that time. And other people that I can mention like Jim Matarazzo, Charlie Delle Bovi. They may have come in Washington but they were not in claims. They came to New York and they got into claims because they had legal degrees. I myself went to school to be a lawyer after I came to work in Washington in the FBI so that I could get a job like this as an adjudicator. I mean that was the reason I went to law school. I kind of thought I might maybe practice but it was really to get a better job. So you did that. And there was no GETA at that time; you paid your own way.
Q.: No Upward Mobility?
Freedman: No Upward Mobility, no nothing. You scratched and clawed for everything you got. So for awhile we were able to hold the line pretty well for lawyers, and some of them were good and some of them weren't so good. But by and large we had really fantastically bright people as I recall it in most of these jobs. Today you would consider they were way above the kind of thing we were doing, particularly since the job was really quite clerical in nature, just the same way as it is today.
Q.: That's one of the questions I've been wanting to ask you. How does the work of the authorizer today compare with the sort of thing you had to do then?
Freedman: I don't think it's a heck of a lot different.
Q.: It's still clerical in your opinion.
Freedman: Yes. Now the difference was that you didn't have so much specialization of things, and because you felt comfortable with it you could read the General Counsel's opinion and apply it without having to have somebody to translate it for you if you were a lawyer. But it wasn't really a make-or-break part of the job and it didn't take long as soon as the market started to dry up a little bit on getting lawyers, it didn't take long before they decided you really didn't need to have law for the thing, and so then you started to promote from within. And so the first wave of people that were sitting around in the old what would today be the Post-Entitlement Units and so on, who were very smart people, at least some of them, they were able to be taken in right away. And so the first waves, as you always have when you let down the bars and you have a big pool, were really outstanding people. They were great. They came in and they were able to keep up and absorb from the others the sort of legal point of view. It wasn't really a significant operational advantage; it was a conceptual advantage in some ways. This kept lowering and lowering to the point where eventually you couldn't get a lawyer for the job and you didn't even bother to look, and you were scraping down pretty low and it became sort of--people who were any good at all at the lower job expected to get promoted. So there's a lot of that. And today the character of the job I think changes with it, so that you don't try to put into the job aspects that you would have before.
Q.: Is the clerical content higher than it was then?
Freedman: Well it isn't today. As a matter of fact I think it's better because, remember, the easy cases are no longer going to the authorizer. You've only got the hard 30 percent left. And I would doubt whether the--you see, let me give you an example. Do you know what my production as a reviewer was in the early days when we opened up in New York, don't laugh at me now. It was not unusual for me to hit 100 a day.
Q.: A hundred a day?
Freedman: Yes, sir.
Q.: These are easy cases?
Freedman: Well obviously they had to be to do this. If you ran into a toughy then that held you up. I'm only saying this in relation to the percentage that were tough. There couldn't have been too many that were tough because we could never get this kind of production out.
Q.: Well there wasn't that much law and regulation to fool around with then.
Freedman: Well remember there was no self-employment.
Q.: Right, and laws are what make tough decisions.
Freedman: That's right. There was no self-employment. I might give an aside on this, that for the first few years until the mid-1940's, you got a picture of the entire earnings record (wage record at that time) which you fooled around with every quarter! I mean you didn't get any total certification; you didn't have any computer or anything putting together the years and lumping together total amount from 1937 and then just the lag. You got the entire picture of the thing and you looked at each posting down the line. You expected the district office (the field office at that time) to sit down with the individual and show him his earnings record from when he first started. (That was one of the changes we had to make to get the earnings record out to the field so they could adjudicate; that was one of the changes we had to make that we put in the 7190 concept where they called for the earnings record.) But one of the things we used to do is you sat down with the claimant and you said to him, "Look over this earnings record. Is there anything we missed? Are there any missing postings?"
Q.: And it was conceivable there would be.
Freedman: Yes. And for the first couple of years the statute of limitations hadn't run enough so that you paid any--as a matter of fact we didn't have any rules on the statute of limitations when we first went to the Area Office. These came in later. And it's hard to say on a chicken-and-egg basis whether the rules came in because they became applicable or whether problems arose and we decided to put in rules limiting the amount of digging we had to do and so on.
I remember the trauma we had when we decided that we could no longer afford the luxury of giving us pictures of the entire earnings records and were going to move to what was called the 794 where you had the certification of the first few years and so on of totals and so on. We said, "well we'll never uncover any coverage and wage issues." And the powers that be were pretty smart at that time and they laughed and said, "That's true, less work involved." If you look at an early posting, for example, we had a rule, one rule I remember that if it was a nonprofit organization that it was only covered if the earnings were more than $45 a quarter. The reason for that was a very logical one. You had Masons, say, who had a guy who had a regular full-time job but he was also secretary or the treasurer and they paid him $15 a month--it was standard--or $10 a month as a nominal fee for the record-keeping. Well they didn't want to have that covered and have that considered employment for the Masonic Lodge or something like that; whereas, if you had the Masonic Temple and you had a janitor who was working there you wanted to cover him. So the law said that nonprofit, what they called 1011, I think it was, of the
Internal Revenue code--this is not eleemosynary institutions or charitable; I'm talking about things like fraternal organizations, things like that--that they would be covered provided their earnings exceeded $45 a quarter. Well one of the things I remember we used to do all the time was that if we saw a fellow having a regular job and we'd see small postings there, we'd assume that maybe he was an officer of some little organization like that, you know, and we'd look up the employee's identification number to see if it was--we'd call for it from Baltimore to see if it was a nonprofit kind of a thing. And then if it was a posting of $40, we'd go out and question it, whether it was covered or not. So we'd throw out that $40; it was less than $45. And this thing became like what it would be today. The powers that be saw that we were just wasting a lot of time on a little peanut proposition. So, you know, you pay the guy $10.40 instead of $10.38. By the way, there were no even dollar amounts; it was to the penny. (And you figured it longhand too. We had a nice little formula that we used to go--10 percent across the board plus $15 or something like that for the first $40. ).
Q.: You mean the PIA or--
Freedman: Well it was called PIB at that time which was a combination of PIA and OAIB. There was no reduced benefits; there was no retroactivity for years. And we had the wonderful situation which, God, I hate to think what might have happened today. What you had to do was educate the public that there was one best point to file. There was no recomputation and there was no retroactivity. So you had to be sure to come in at the point that would give you the maximum benefit from now on to the end of your lifetime as well as not losing any benefits by coming in even 1 month after it was due. So what we had was a situation where the general rule was that if a person was working--usually this had to do with somebody in a unionized industry or something where he got a fairly good level rate of pay. And if, for example, he was getting old--65, 66, 67--and he was reducing, let's say, he was working part time, it would reduce his payment, but he would still not get any benefits because he would be exceeding $14.99 a month. You wanted to freeze his case as of the highest point before his wage rate went down. So you had to freeze that case and get him to come in even though he wasn't entitled to any benefits, become entitled for no payments, you see, like a no-payment award today. But you had to select the right point. And once you filed you could not unfile it; you were anchored to that under the legal opinions at that time which said he could not be set adrift once you established entitlement, and so on. So there were a lot of rather peculiar kinds of things going on as far as computing the benefit amounts. And one of the things we did in deciding to substitute a certification of totals for a full wage record--is we did away with a lot of picayune development we used to do and saved a lot of money in that way.
Then we used to get lag 1001s from all employers at that time. One of the things we asked the employers was the kind of occupation of the individual, the wage earner. Well there were a lot of coverage issues raised by how they stated the occupation, and finally somebody had the bright idea of eliminating the block, "Occupation." That eliminated a lot of development.
Q.: One of the things I'd like to know--this is like a history quiz question in school--can you name all of the heads of the organizations which precede BRSI, starting from the present and going back? There's McKenna and Branham.
Freedman: Branham, yes. Now, before BRSI, you'd have to tell me which organizations you're talking about.
Q.: That's what we'd like to know.
Freedman: Okay. The 1965 reorganization, as a point of reference, which created program bureaus, right? Okay. BRSI, if we're talking about BRSI itself, was an amalgam basically of the old Division of Claims Control (And I talked before about the combining of the Division of Claims and Division of Control into Division of Claims Control.) That organization which job Dick Branham was in at the point at which we reorganized, and Division of Claims Policy, which was headed at that point by Tom Parrott. Now if we take then the DCC part--you have to take them separately--the predecessors--now one of the problems I have in getting the recollections straight and sequences straight is the war issue that I mentioned before, that we had people in as war service appointments in many of these jobs. Now I believe Dick Branham was in the service--I'm sure Dick Branham was in the service at the time we created DCC and I believe he was slated to be the chief of the Area Office in New York, at least his wife was actually up there, as head of the Disbursement and Adjustment Section. (There were three sections under that.) But by the time he came back he never went there. He came to Chicago and Baltimore. And then he had other jobs and he finally wound up in this. And then there was a man by the name of-
Q.: Excuse me. Do you mean Branham headed the Division of Claims Control from, say, '45-'60?
Freedman: No, no. At some point-
Q.: He joined it.
Freedman: No; he was in and out. He either was in Chicago, in Policy or in Claims Control; I'm not sure. During some of those inter-years I just don't have a clear picture; you'd have to ask Dick himself or look in the files to recollect just when he went from one to the other. But for some years before 1965, Dick was the head of it. I believe his immediate predecessor was Ewell Bartlett; I believe it was, that that was his immediate--there might have been somebody in-between because there was also Nat Love in there someplace. I don't have a clear picture of that. You see, I didn't come back to Central Office until 1950. And when I came in, Bartlett was head of DCC. And Perrin Lowrey was head of DCP.
Q.: And when would Branham have taken over DCC? About when?
Freedman: I'm really not 100 percent sure. (Benjamin was in there for awhile and Nat Love) I would imagine it would be late 1950's or early 1960. That would be my best guess. I may be off; I just don't have it clear. The long-term incumbent, as far as I was concerned, of DCC was Bartlett, the guy who really gave it the kind of stature and so on that-
Q.: There is of course a Bartlett Award for humanity.
Freedman: Yes. Now let me tell you. That happened in this way. Bartlett was there let's say--I can tell you it was 1950 when I came in. Perrin Lowrey, who some thought might be considered a protégé of Bartlett's because I think they both worked together originally in the Central Counsel's Office in the early days--see, that was their background; they didn't come up through the claims line and so on. Perrin Lowrey was head of Claims Policy when I came in. He hired me. Now some years thereafter, Lowrey left Claims Policy--some difficulties he had with Bob Ball. It was after Bob Ball became not the Commissioner- he became Deputy Director after they brought Victor Christgau in. It was after that point so it was in the Eisenhower-
Q.: After Eisenhower.
Freedman: Yes. Lowrey had some kind of run-in or something. So he was out and Bartlett moved over from DCC to DCP,
Q.: From DCC to DCP.
Q.: This would be when, about?
Freedman: This was in the early or middle 1950's.
Q.: You came there in '50. Bartlett was in DCC but then in the middle fifties he went to DCP.
Freedman: Right. And when Bartlett died he was in DCP. He died as the Director of Division of Claims Policy. And the Bartlett Award arose out of the kinds of considerations more as a policy man than as the Claims Control soft of a thing.
Q.: I see.
Freedman: So it was a broader scope kind of a job. It was more conceptual. You see, DCC was a purely operation kind of a thing, and Bartlett was a conceptual kind; brilliant man. And like anything else, assignments grow with the man. For example, in 1958-59 when Congress was attacking the disability program and there were a lot of problems with the disability program, they asked Bartlett to head up a committee to respond to the Congressional investigation, Ways and Means Harrison Subcommittee, I'm quite familiar with that because I worked with the staff at that time on that Harrison Subcommittee. And this was way beyond what a normal DCP Division Director would be doing. This was something over and above. It was a recognition of a lot of things including his personal friendship with Wilbur Mills and some other things of that nature. He came from Arkansas, which didn't hurt.
Q.: It never does. So sticking now with DCC though then there was somebody named Nat Love.
Freedman: Well Nat Love was earlier.
Q.: Before Bartlett?
Freedman: Before Bartlett, yes. You know, there was some movement in and out. This is the thing that I don't have any absolute recollection of sequence on. Nat Love was another one who was out because of military service, and probably Nat Love had that job when it was originally set up on paper, but he wasn't here. Or if he was, he left shortly thereafter, something along that line. And I wasn't here, I wasn't in Baltimore, and wasn't working here from 1942 to 1950, so my recollection is second hand and rather hazy.
Q.: Oh, you were out of SSA for awhile.
Freedman: No; I was in the New York Area Office-
Freedman: --from when we decentralized. We opened the New York Area Office the end of June 1942, beginning of July, until about December 1950 when I came back.
Q.: Okay. So actually-
Freedman: When I came to Baltimore. I never lived in Baltimore before. I went from Washington to New York to Baltimore.
Q.: Well this implies, but not necessarily, that Bartlett was the immediate predecessor of Parrott at DCP?
Freedman: Yes. Parrott was Bartlett's Deputy.
Q.: And then when Bartlett died or retired-
Freedman: Yes, Parrott.
Q.: Parrott. And before Bartlett assumed DCP's leadership in the mid-fifties, who would they have had?
Freedman: There was Perrin Lowrey.
Q.: Lowrey throughout.
Q.: From the beginning?
Freedman: You know who Perrin Lowrey is?
Q.: No; I don't know him.
Freedman: I just saw him day before yesterday.
Q.: Does he still work here?
Freedman: Yes. He's the Regional Rep, DI, in Kansas City.
Q.: Oh, okay. Now all of this was provoked by the question, "What has been the directorship of what is now BRSI?" And you said BRSI was formed from DCC and DCP.
Freedman: Right. So I went back onto that.
Q.: And that would be it then, that's the answer to the question.
Freedman: Yes. Lou Lange was always the Deputy in the early days. Lou Lange was the second in command when he came back from the service.
Q.: If we go back, from what you say, back as early as l940 we could distinguish between a claims control and claims policy function.
Freedman: The Claims Division was headed up at that time by Oscar Pogge.
Q.: And that was DCC.
Freedman: Well, you see-
Q.: Oh, well let's call it the Claims Division.
Freedman: Claims Division. We didn't have any DCC at that time.
Q.: Fight. And the Control-
Freedman: And the Control was Nat Love, I believe, basically. You know, as I say, you've got to remember that there were people going into the service at that time-
Freedman: --and there were short periods of time and some months--there wasn't any long period, and I just don't remember the exact sequence of any of these things. But basically Nat Love was head of the Control Division and Oscar Pogge was head of the Claims thing. When they put it together and opened in Baltimore in the Equitable Building, I just don't have an absolutely clear recollection when they created the Claims Control Division or who was the first head. I suspect it was Pogge.
Q.: Why would Pogge have headed all of that, by the way?
Freedman: No, no, Pogge had already gone up higher. Pogge was the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance. He had been promoted when Corson left earlier, which was the step above.
Q.: So actually when Pogge, as Director of the Claims Division-
Freedman: That was in Washington.
Q.: Right. Would that have made him the No.2 man in-
Freedman: Well it would be one of the No. 2 men.
Q.: Was there a BOASI at that time?
Freedman: Yes, oh yes.
Q.: From the inception?
Freedman: John Corson was not from the inception but certainly from 1939 when I came in. And John Corson was the Bureau Director. Then John Corson had intermediate kind of service and came back. John Corson came back as Bureau Director when I was Chief of the Accounting Section in New York because he came up to visit me in New York and that must have been about 1943 or something like that. He had left and come back, and in-between I don't know whether Oscar acted for him or not, but Oscar succeeded him. There were also some other (word inaudible).
Q.: In 1940 terms, what would an organization chart of BOASI look like?
Freedman: Well it would be the Bureau and the Bureau Head and you would have the Accounting Operation Division with Joe Fay heading it up. Then there would be the Claims Division with Pogge and the Control Division with Love, and that would be it. Oh then there were a lot of the other things that were cranked in like personnel offices and stuff like that-no, there were agency personnel offices at the board level or the agency level and not at ours. Like when I came in, I went through the personnel office. We had no separate personnel office for the Bureau as you might have one now.
Q.: So actually the people who hired, the agency that hired you was the Board.
Freedman: That's right. In fact, I have some friends who got married to wives who also happened to be working at that time, say, over in the Candler Building and so on, some of my friends here. And it's a strange thing, we go out socially and they'll refer to the Board. They've never changed. That was their last association and they will ask, "Do you work for the Board?" he'll say to somebody, you know.
Q.: When did BOASI acquire--it's not your area of course--but in your recollection, acquire these little appendages, the administrative?
Freedman: Well AOD, which was stationed in Baltimore, had to have its own little personnel assistant anyhow because you weren't going to send anybody to Washington for that. So they started to get an office. Now the same way when we set up headquarters of BOASI in Baltimore in the Equitable Building they had to get a lot of these appendages there. But the real serious changes took place when we moved--which was shortly before the 1965 reorganization, when first Bob Ball was appointed Commissioner of Social Security. There's a difference you know, a distinction between Commissioner of Social Security and Commissioner for Social Security. It's a very basic organizational distinction and I'm not sure I can remember which is which. But the old Commissioner, which was Altmeyer's job, and then he was succeeded by a whole raft of Republican incumbents, some of whom lasted very very short periods of time. That included Charlie Schottland and people of that nature, most of them excellent people, by the way, very impressive list of people. Anyhow, they, as I said, had a job, which only incidentally covered--you know, SSA was just a small part- -not SSA, but what we called BOASI was a small part of that. And they dealt mostly with State type of activities, which were involved in welfare and so on, matching funds and things of that nature. That was where most of their activity was. And the Regional Directors had that similar kind of a thing.
When Wilbur Cohen, I think it was, appointed Bob Ball as Commissioner when Wilbur Cohen moved up from the Under Secretary to the Secretary of HEW, I believe it was, and this was-
Freedman: It was earlier; it was before the '65--Bob Ball became Commissioner before the '65 reorganization.
Q.: He was the Commissioner in '60 or '61, wasn't he?
Freedman: No, no.
Freedman: It could have been that early but I don't recollect it that way because, see, Bob Ball was running BOASI as the Deputy to Victor Christgau for some years. Then he was appointed as Commissioner which in effect was Christgau's boss over in Washington. So he went over there, as I recall it, it was only about 1 year that he was boss of all of SSA, in the traditional SSA that he was Commissioner of. And he just was not too happy with the whole schmeer. You could ask him about it. But anyhow, the net result of whatever it is he negotiated is that SSA was split into two--an SSA and an SRS. And so he came over here then as Social Security Commissioner, which was for all intents and purposes the same as the old bureau Director. And everybody stepped up one is probably what happened. This happened out of the 1965 reorganization. He came over shortly before and proceeded to reorganize it in this way.
Q.: So actually until '65 there were only these two divisions doing what BRSI does now.
Freedman: This is true.
Q.: On the eve of that, say in '64, did BRSI have a Division of Management and so forth?
Freedman: No, no; we didn't have any Division of Management. You had, well-
Q.: I mean the function. Presumably you still had-
Freedman: Well you had-(I can tell you when I came in in 1950 in DCP we had one person doing all of Management, what Management is doing now.) And until the reorganization of 1967 of BRSI, there was no separate and identifiable Management function. It was under Charlie DelleBovi; he was ABD for Operations, which included Management. There were a couple of staff people. Charlie DelleBovi's responsibilities were split into two and they set up an ABD for Administration and an ABD for Systems and Methods, or Methods and Procedures.
Q.: BRSI was created in '65?
Freedman: BRSI was created in '65, right. At that time it had three parts to it.
Q.: All right, that's what I was going to ask.
Freedman: It had an ABD for Operations; an ABD for Policy. So in effect what they had in those two pieces, you had the part of Division of Claims Policy that came over to BRSI and was headed by an Assistant Bureau Director for Policy. The entire Policy structure, the infrastructure, went over under that Assistant Bureau Director for Policy.
Q.: Apparently that was Parrott.
Freedman: Yes, before they set up the OAC, Field, and Sarah Juni became his Deputy, then the entire operational structure of the old DCC which was under George Smith at that time.
Q.: It wasn't under Branham?
Freedman: Oh, yes. He had been Division Director but Branham was moving up.
Q.: So then there was an ABD.
Freedman: There was an ABD for Operations.
Q.: That was DelleBovi.
Freedman: He eventually got that; he wasn't there at the beginning on that thing.
Q.: And Parrott was for Policy.
Freedman: Yes; I think it was Smith that--I don't know who-wait a minute. I forget how it was when it was set up originally. I can't even remember now! But they set up a quality appraisal function which was a new function, the only additional thing they set up, and that was because they threw into the 1965 reorganization the concept that the program bureaus would also not only run the offices that, like, were in DCC, but they would also have technical leadership over the district offices.
Q.: So we have an ABD for Quality or three ABD's.
Freedman: Yes; they called it Appraisal.
Q.: Who was that?
Q.: I know you're still ABD for Appraisal.
Freedman: I was the first one and only one. There's never been any other in BRSI.
Q.: There'll never be another one like you.
Freedman: There'll be plenty of them. Probably be working for someone else and put it out of business. Basically, the idea was that we had really three responsibilities under Branham: one was the responsibility for running the Program Center entirely, just the Program Centers, and that included both management and the operational aspects of running the programs.
Q.: Now you're talking about BRSI or-
Freedman: BRSI. That was Operations. And for example, where you were, under Vince, so on, you were under the ABD for Operations.
Q.: No; I didn't work there. I worked for Flynn.
Freedman: Oh, yes; you were in L and C; I'm sorry. That came a little later. You came in '67. But, you know right next door to me was Vince Curley. Wasn't he there when you were there too?
Q.: What do you mean, for Operations?
Freedman: No; he was really the head of that was the forerunner of Administration.
Q.: Oh, I didn't know him.
Freedman: Let me just give it to you in a little bit of perspective in this way. The concept there was that we had these six factories; now the five had become six. (There's another story about New Orleans breaking up and creating Birmingham and Kansas City at some later point. That's by the by; that happened in the mid-l940s.) So we had six big installations up there and they needed to be run. And the people who were running them was this ABD for Operations--first DCC, and substitute for the Division of Claims Control was the ABD for Operations, Assistant Bureau Director for Operations. And then whatever we had in Policy was under the Assistant Bureau Director for Policy. And then they created the Assistant Bureau Director for Quality Appraisal. Eddie Watman was the one who became ABD for Policy.
Q.: Still is.
Freedman: No; he's retired.
Q.: Well he was until recently.
Freedman: Yes; he was until recently. And, of course DelleBovi was the ABD, as you say, for Operations. Most of the time there was a short transitional period, but basically that's what you had.
When McKenna came in l967 or later '66 he took Branham's place. He felt that this was not a viable organization. His analysis, which I don't think anybody could possibly dispute, was that the problems that the Program Centers (Payment Centers) were having at that time arose from the fact that they didn't have a strong management thrust, administrative thrust. So what he did is reorganize the top of BRSI, and instead of three ABD's, he made five. But basically what he did with the existing organization--see he left Policy and Quality Appraisal alone. He took DelleBovi's outfit, which ran the Payment Centers, and split them into two pieces, one a Methods and Procedures outfit to issue methods and procedures for the Payment Centers, and one in Administration, an ABD for Administration. And he did the same thing with the top staff in the Program Centers where he set up Directors of Operations and Directors of Management.
Q.: Right. But that would leave us with still one more unaccounted for.
Freedman: The other one he set up a sort of personal type staff that he could work with and this was the Liaison and Coordination Staff that he set up with Flynn.
Q.: Is that still around?
Freedman: No. It has recently been modified into even a smaller staff under a Director of Liaison right in McKenna's office.
Q.: Where's Flynn now, by the way?
Freedman: That's Flynn. Smith retired. See, Flynn and Smith-
Q.: Switched, yes.
Freedman: --switched. And now Flynn is back pretty much where he was. He switched again. But this was a deliberate effort on McKenna's part to upgrade management as an important--see, one, of the real criticisms of the organization is that it focused entirely on operations to the point where you got promoted by being the best technician to be a supervisor for example. The supervisor was the best technician; he could answer the questions. Well after a while you make a lot of mistakes doing that. You don't always have people who can deal with people.
Q.: If BRSI could write a book (I ask this very whimsically) entitled My Six Crises, what have been the--I know that when McKenna came in in '67-
Freedman: Yes; that's a crisis.
Q.: That was a tremendous crisis for Management.
Freedman: It's a crisis of Management, you know, it depends upon where you start. It was a crisis in organization; it was a crisis in SSA management, perhaps more significantly than it was a crisis in BRSI.
Q.: On account of the Health Insurance business)?
Freedman: On account of Medicare, right. If anybody wanted to do the kind of thing you were talking about, you could go back to 1954, '56, when disability began. And you could say what was the impact of that on the organization, and what did we go through? Well I remember very very clearly a quite similar trauma to what we had in 1966 that took place in 1956, 1957, 1958. As a matter of fact, that's why we had the Harrison Subcommittee investigating the disability program. It was the same kind of thing from the point of view of organizational growth and organizational movement as we had then, but it didn't have that serious an impact on it and it didn't get handled the same way.
What happened, for example, to give you the kind of dimension as I would see it--and I can give it to you in a rather simplistic kind of an example that's very easy to grasp. Until the advent of disability, we had six Area Offices who were the repositories of all claims that SSA dealt with in the program by strict account numbers. If you knew the account number, you knew where your claim was. And if there were problems in getting your hands on the claim or associating materials with the claim or making changes in the claim, you knew where to go for your responsibility and you knew where to go for everything, you know, everything, you knew exactly where it was. During a couple of years there, I remember, I had files under me in New York for example. And every once in awhile we'd have an inquiry or something and somebody would say, "I can't find the case folder." And you couldn't reply without the case folder. That was the history. We didn't have the kind of history on tape that we have today, and we don't have it complete today either. But we didn't have anything; you had to go to the folder. And they'd come in and say they couldn't find it, it's mis-filed, it's lost. I was a section chief then, maybe a fourth-line supervisor. My God, I didn't want to hear anything about any files being lost. I went down myself for that file and looked and looked and I'd push these people until we'd find it. And we found after a while, you know, the folders would fall behind the drawers and you'd have to have these so-called search light searches, look at the bottom to see if you could see these things. And it was only as a last resort that we ever redeveloped a case because we lost a file. So you had very strong control of it. Now it might have taken us a little longer, although we had less business then.
Now with the advent of disability and the setting up of the so-called Baltimore Payment Center, for example, (which originally was under Claims Control and then was removed and put under Division of Disability Operations,) you had a new phenomenon. I'm only giving this as an example; I'm not saying this is the most crucial thing. But this is the kind of thing that happened. And everybody was busy as hell and everybody was short of people. A request would come into say, New York, where I was, under an account number that was a New York account number, let's say 123-05-3444, and the inquirer would say, "Where's my claim. I haven't heard. You told me I was going to get paid." Or, "you stopped my checks. It's been 3 or 4 months and I haven't gotten them." And we'd go down to the files and they'd search it and they wouldn't find it in files; whereas, up to that time the first thing you had to say was it's misfiled, we've got to go looking for it because we've got to find it otherwise the guy upstairs is going to kill us if we don't find it. Instead of that you said, you know what, I'll bet you it's one of those disability cases down there, and the guy didn't tell us it was disability. And so there was an option that he had of sending the case down to Baltimore to say, "We think it's your case; you reply to it." When they got it down here, they'd look at it and they wouldn't find it here, so they'd say, "Those dodos up in New York, they're always doing this- they're always assuming- There's nothing that clearly says that this is a disability case." So they'd send it back.
Well that one little option created more confusion of papers flying around back and forth, and the point is that we got to the point where nobody knew where a folder was. You couldn't lay your hands on it. Don't forget that most of your inquiries and most of your activity are concentrated in a small percentage of folders. They don't go to the folders that have been sitting there for a long time that nothing happens to. Everything keeps happening to one. If a guy goes to work and he tells you he's going to work and you have to taken an action, a few months later he stops working and he comes back and tells you and that folder may still be out being worked on on the first thing.
Q.: What sort of things did McKenna do--you can turn it all around, or do you consider that it has been turned around?
Freedman: Oh, yes; I think there's no question about it. And I don't only think you can tell by looking at either Management statistics or any other thing. You can tell firsthand--I have firsthand knowledge. I can tell by the fact that when we deal with Management at the Program Centers today at a conference you sit around and listen to them--they're talking like professional managers, they're acting like professional managers. They know what a professional manager does. And their failures are failures to come up to the standards of professional managers, which they're aware of. It isn't the failure of saying, "Well, that's not my job to do it;" or, you know, "I fired him;" or, "I have to bawl these people out because they don't get the right answer on the cases." You don't get any of these kinds of old-fashioned theory-X kind of approach to that. And there's no question that all of Management is like that. Now it took some doing because what was inherent in the Program Center, (Payment Center) was the same thing that is pervasive in private industry or anything else. People who had worked themselves up into middle management under the old system you just couldn't get rid of them. They were the backbone of everything you were doing. They were the source of most of your knowledge You had to try to either get them to work under the new methods--and most of them did--or find some other work for them, and there were very few jobs at the grade level in middle management to take care of that. So you had to work around them; sometimes you had to be redundant.
McKenna could immediately come in and put people in charge on top who were well-directed. And he could make every effort that as people got into supervision from down below, they were selected with the idea that they would make a career out of management and not a career out of the technical area that they were in. But it took a long time before you could cope with all the existing slots that you had filled of people who were pretty competent people by and large, but a lot of them who could not really manage.
Very quickly, I think that one of the things that I wanted to say is that there was a responsiveness by Management by and large to this. There was a defensiveness on the part of those managers who perhaps in-between who felt that they couldn't quite measure up, that it wasn't their thing. They were considered top guys because they knew the technical answers, and all of a sudden they're just average Joes because they don't know enough about managing people.
Q.: I haven't been in a Payment Center in about 5 years. Five years ago it was terrible, the sort of place you wouldn't want anyone you know to work, much less a friend or something. What's it like now?
Freedman: It's quite different; it's quite different. You have pockets of resistance but, well, I visited two Program Centers in the last 2 weeks, this week and last week. Last week I was in Birmingham. You wouldn't recognize the Payment Centers the way they have it down there now. Basically I visited my Quality Appraisal staff and that's not really traditional Payment Center. But I went next door to the so-called Southeastern Modular Experiment where they have 12 percent of their load experimenting with modules. They have four modules so that each module is responsible for account numbers covering about 3 percent of Birmingham's workload. You don't see any cases piled up. You don't see anything piled up.
Q.: Any bodies piled up?
Freedman: You don't see bodies piled up. You see a cheerful, very nice looking atmosphere as far as the hygiene factors; they're beautiful out there. But that's not really the test; they have to have a good building. For example, in the modular organization that I saw in Birmingham, you have one supervisor over a group of 17 technicians, some of whom are claims authorizers, some are benefit authorizers, and some are exception processing people, and you couldn't tell by looking at them which is which. There was no demarcation; they were under one supervisor and that was a unit of technicians running those account numbers. They were learning from each other.
Q.: You mean they were talking to each other?
Freedman: Not only talking to each other, but they were helping each other out. The case didn't move from one place to the other; it was right there. You had two other groups of support people. The files for those account numbers were right on the same floor, and I mean a small floor; you only have 50 people on this floor, all in very nice carpeted space. And they had their own files there; they had their own mini-payment center there, and you could see everybody else's business and everybody could see your business, and you had one module manager. And the whole atmosphere is completely different; they're working towards an objective. When the cases start piling it up, they were all worried about it and everybody starts asking, "What are we going to do about it? Can we help out?" That's the best experience we've had in this modular organization so far.
Q.: But is this what is going to happen to the Payment Centers eventually?
Freedman: Oh, yes; oh, yes. You see, this is the third office that we've instituted modular experiment. There's a different kind of modular experiment in San Francisco. San Francisco tried to do too much too quickly and without, I don't think, considering the consequences; whereas, they started in Scott Plaza in Philadelphia, Mid-Atlantic Program Center, by taking 20 percent-- (they were getting the New Jersey cases being transferred from the New York Payment Center to the Philadelphia Payment Center.) So instead of putting them into the total load, they segregated them. They set up a special operation far removed from downtown Philadelphia, Scott Plaza, and modularized them. They had a terrible first year. They didn't know A from Izzard. They made every mistake they could make. They started out with a sort of concept of participatory management where everybody does his own thing. And they did their own thing and they never told anybody what things they were doing either. So things were not at all happy out there and it took them about a year to get straightened out. From the beginning, the people who went out there, who by the way went out on a volunteer basis--there were certain advantages, not only nicer space, they didn't have to pay Philadelphia occupational taxes and some other advantages--it was nice space and so on. But from the beginning the people out there had a sense of mission, that they were different. It wasn't just a halo effect. They really felt that this was--some of them got promoted; I guess that didn't hurt--reclassified. No, they didn't, I'm sorry; I take that back. That was not a motivator. Although some of them probably did, individuals, but that was not the bulk of the people. But the bulk of the people liked what they were doing. They liked to learn some of these things. Well it may be true that Mid-Atlantic Program Center was not a very good Program Center to get a full test on that because they were sort of down at the bottom anyway. They had no place to go but up. So it was at least a change from the very worst that could happen. The results were lousy for a long time but the people were happy. And now we've got the results turned around. So we now have not only happy people but happy results. So Management is happy as well.
Q.: How do you appraise the quality of the results of this modular-
Freedman: Well we would appraise it on three things. We would appraise it on productivity factors such as backlogs and age of cases and then processing time.
Q.: How does that compare?
Freedman: They're much better than the traditional.
Q.: Oh, really. So you're all going to go into that at once.
Freedman: Well I think so. But Mr. McKenna is taking this extremely conservatively articulating the best type of module and exactly how big it should be, exactly how much supervision, and so we're still testing out. The test then went from Mid-Atlantic to San Francisco where Walter Baum decided that he would like to experiment with taking the whole Program Center and breaking it up into six major modules, so that each one had one-sixth of their total work. Instead of a fifth out there, each one had a sixth. Well what happened is that this has not worked to this date and it's been over a year or about a year. It doesn't work and now we have a lot of people examining why, including Professor Davis from UCLA. And I think that basically what it is is that he tried not to get rid of his traditional organization, traditional loyalties. He tried to build the organization for example whereas I told you a little earlier that Southeastern had this one supervisor over a group of CAB and PE people in a San Francisco module on the same floor you had so many CAB sections, so many PE sections, each separately identified as such. So there's really no true homogenization kind of a thing. And it's just not been successful. You have not replaced old loyalties and old lines of communication and things like that. And again, people are doing their own thing, so each of the six modules went their own way. Now in Southeastern they've gone to school on that, they've learned something on that, they have organized space, they've organized differently, and they started off like a house afire. Whereas, both other modules started off very badly. And the sociologists tell us it takes about a year--about a year to shake down the changes. They're starting off right away with a tremendous improvement. How much of it is motivation or halo, they might come back, I don't know. But they've got plenty of room to come back. They were a good organization to start off with.
Q.: They were the best.
Freedman: Well, Kansas City, I imagine, Mid-America would probably dispute that. But they were certainly-
Q.: (Inaudible--both speaking simultaneously)
Freedman: Yes; they've had a lot of troubles recently.
Q.: In Birmingham?
Q.: Civil rights?
Freedman: Not necessarily. They've had difficulty with unions, for example.
Q.: So that's a new experience.
Freedman: Well unions are a fairly new experience for all of us. But the unions have been under trusteeship, you see.
Freedman: Yes, there have been some severe internal problems there and they've had big backlogs. They've assumed more work. We assumed more work. We moved some of the Philadelphia cases down there, you know, more responsibility. But all in all I think there's no question that an organizational focus on end results, on serving the public, is what's needed and this modular organization shows promise of achieving that. In other words, the people feeling that I'm responsible for a portion of the work, I'm responsible for the State of so and so, that's where I work and I'm going to see that the way we handle these cases is better than anybody else that does that, see, that kind of identification, instead of identification with part of a process which is one step in paying people, which you had from the traditional organization where you can only equate yourself with paper, you know, of some sort.
Q.: Well you've been with BRSI for 34 years this month?
Freedman: Well you mean with SSA.
Q.: Right, with SSA.
Freedman: Let's see how many. I came in the end of 1939.
Q.: Or January of '40, somewhere in there. Thirty-four years is a long time. Have you got something for the tape?
Freedman: Yes. It was a wonderful organization. I don't think it's anywhere near as wonderful today. The challenges are there today much more so than they were then, but the thrill of breaking new ground and being the forerunner is something you can't duplicate. And this matter which ties in with what we were talking about before, a feeling of--let me give you an example to illustrate my feeling. I don't know if I can articulate it myself. You know Gus Myers, he's retired because of disability some years back. Well Gus typifies to me the real old-timer, the old-timer who lived and breathed the program. And not too long ago-- (you know, he keeps on asking his old staff to send him packages of work every week so he can keep up with what's going on?)
Q.: And they do?
Freedman: They do when they can the things they can without hurting his feelings. Well some months ago he was asking me about SSI and he was vitally interested in policy development and so on, and we were telling him some of the horror stories, the things that were happening. And his reaction is, "What are they doing to my program?" You see it was still his program; "What are they doing to my program?" And this, I think, is a typical kind of a--we don't many of us say it but I think a lot of us feel it, that we have it. And unfortunately, too many of the people who grew up with the organization, lived with it and lived with it as a personal as well as a business thing, have reacted either the way Gus reacted or much worse, it seems to me, in saying, "I don't want to know any more; I don't want to hear any more about it; that's not my program." And this started quite a bit back. I think it's unfortunate because I don't think the future of the program, if you're going to maintain the kind of historic (how shall I say it?) position in the program as being highly efficient, effective, and so on, I don't think it can be done under strict type of business approaches. It has to be done with a certain amount of love for what you're doing, and I don't believe we can motivate people too much anymore. Not that people won't give you a heck of a lot of themselves, they will. I think this is true. Most people want to give as much as they can; they want to get ahead. But I don't think it is with tender loving care for what you're doing, and self-sacrifice that you do it. This is the kind of impression I get. There's a kind of bitterness in people who have grown up with it; possibly a great deal of it is misplaced, in that time is passing them by. But I don't believe it's that. When I came with the organization, and frankly I didn't choose Social Security because I had a great deal of rapport with the objectives. I didn't disagree with the objective. I thought it was great. But I came in because they offered me the job, my job. Most of us came that way. So I don't talk about it in these kinds of--I may be overstating it. But when you got into it you felt you were in the forefront of doing something useful for the public and you got satisfaction out of the fact that you were accomplishing something which was you took care of poor people, you took care of--well, I feel from the reaction today that we have a middle-class kind of a program, it's not for the working stiff and this kind of stuff. And suddenly you find that you're conservative, that what used to be liberal and radical is now very conservative.
Q.: The establishment.
Freedman: The establishment, that's exactly right. You're now a member of the establishment. And it was a hell of a lot different in the early days when social security was a bad--in fact a typical thing when I was in the New York Area Office, we were moving into one of the new buildings in which the New York Area Office regularly moved, every year. It was right before I came to Baltimore; it was 1950. We were moving into some building that was owned by some drug company; I knew the building was owned by some drug company. It turned out that that drug company (I think the name of it was Sterling Drug Company, or something) was actually the parent corporation for Bayer Aspirin, whatever it was. Each floor of this building, which we came in, had great big vaults for accounts receivable; I remember we worried about it. I was trying to lay out my unit or whatever it was at that time and happened to come in while there were some guys there from the drug company. Of course at that time there was a lot of sensitivity about Social Security getting into the disability business and the drug companies particularly talked about health insurance even in those days. They hated it. Well I didn't have any feeling like that. I mean this was a business. I came in and a nice guy was sitting there with a secretary and they were taking down the walls and moving him were moving out because we were moving in. And we said, "pardon me, do you mind if we come in because we're the new tenants?" He got up, he was very charming, came over and shook hands. And then finally he said, "What firm are you with?" We said, "We're from Social Security." He said, "You mean the Social Security Administration is moving in here?" And I said, "Yes." He said, "Well you guys get the hell out of my office." Here we were, this was 1949 and Social Security was not being accepted that well.
Freedman: Yes. And so we felt that we were in a kind of risky business. I had a good friend who worked in Policy and I ran into him in Miami Beach where he used to go every year. He got hold of me the moment he saw me and he said, "Please don't tell anybody I work for Social Security. It isn't known down here," supposedly in the legal practice, you see. I mean he wouldn't admit that he worked for Social Security in polite society. And that's the atmosphere in which we worked. Today you're part of the establishment. There's no question about that. There's a great deal of difference. I think we'll become more and more an organization devoted to doing the job the best way possible. I think we've gotten to the point where--well we used to look at VA as fuddy-duddy and old fashioned and so on, didn't keep up with the times. We were the new boys on the block.
Q.: They've always been part of establishment, or certainly for a very long time, the veteran benefits idea.
Freedman: Yes. I think now we're not too far behind on the thing. We look at the politics, we look at the cost. We don't look at the social good, the wild-eyed radical kinds of innovative ideas.
Q.: There aren't any more radicals left.
Freedman: That's the whole thing. We measure it not in terms of how much hate mail would we get if we do this? What would be the congressional reaction? And it's natural, it's normal. You have to adjust.
Q.: I bet you couldn't find 500 or 1,000 guys with the same point of view that you all had today who'd be willing to work in an office.
Freedman: Well I think you probably would if you had the same kind of thing. Of course there's also the economic conditions of the thing. So I don't think it's right to expect that they be quite the same. But I think it was a great thing to live through these years and see it develop. And even aside from things, just to see an organization as an onlooker, to see how some little thing grew into the massive thing it is today and it's breathtaking sometimes if you stop to look at it. That itself is a great experience. Going through the growth of anything, going through the growth of a child, going through any kind of metamorphosis from small to big and so on is great. And the challenges are certainly, I think, more there today than they were then--learning to live with things, learning to adjust. I think I was very lucky that all the years I worked with people who never wanted to stay still.
In 1949, as I mentioned at one point earlier, I was on a detail to the Bureau of Employees Compensation and I told the head of the Accounting Section--they were paying claims to Government employees--I suggested that she might want to put in an IBM system instead of a hand-posting system of the monthly payments. They were posting every monthly payment by hand every month to everybody who was getting their compensation! I suggested they may want to put it on some kind of an IBM thing. And she told me, "Look, I've been here since 1917 and that's the way we did it and that's the way we're going to do it until I die." I don't think I've ever worked in an organization where anybody said that to me or even thought that to me, not in Social Security.
I worked for the FBI before I came here which was touted as a highly efficient organization under J. Edgar Hoover, and that's a big lie that it was efficient. It just looked efficient. It just gave the appearance of being efficient. It was corroded from the inside from the beginning.
Q.: How efficient is SSA?
Freedman: SSA is highly efficient. Yes, yes, I think they're highly efficient because they're motivated towards making the proper payment to people. The Railroad Retirement Board, at least the last time I checked with them, felt that it was wrong to undertake a leads program, to go look for people. They said, "You're ridiculous. Why would you go out and find people to pay money to? That's stupid. That's throwing away good money. That's depleting your trust fund." I don't think they're that way today, but this was some years ago when I dealt with them on policy level, that their top people thought that way. We've never thought that way. We always felt it was right that we go and find somebody who's entitled and pay him. And we always worried that maybe Congress wouldn't let us do it.
Q.: Yes. That is a problem here in reporting it.
Freedman: Yes. But just to work in an organization that was motivated that way is just so much better than working for an organization that's motivated the other way to try to put everything on a budget and say what it costs and say can't we cut corners and not pay the people? When we cut corners it was in the direction of paying people. And I was always the guy who was a little more conservative and said, "Why should we steal it out of the trust fund? Let's be sure of that right now." I'd worry Quality whether it's overpayment or underpayment. I can't quite see the SRS thing, which says that the standard you have to meet is 3-percent ineligibility and 5-percent overpayment. They don't give a darn about how much underpayment you do because you're stealing from the taxpayer. I believe you've got an obligation there too. I think you have to do it all on balance. I'm glad I work in an organization that tends the other way, the way SSA does, rather than tends the way RRB would.
Q.: Do you have any questions?
Freedman: You've exhausted me.