History of SSA During the Johnson Administration 1963-1968



The Total Data Systems Plan of the Social Security Administration envisions an integrated data system to realize the basic systems goals, values, and concepts contained in the Plan in order to fulfill the mission and achieve the public service objectives of the Administration in the most effective mariner. {1}

The evolution of this clear delineation of systems values and direction can be traced to the foresight of an earlier Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, the Honorable Marion B. Folsom. In 1957, the Secretary asked a distinguished group of businessmen, under the chairmanship of Reinhard A. Hohaus, Vice President and Chief Actuary of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, to review the broad aspects of the process bywhich the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance discharged its responsibilities with specific reference to the application of electronics and other developments in the area of mass data processing. {2} Among the major recommendations made by the Hohaus Group in June 1958 were the placing of greater emphasis on central planning from the perspective of the totalBureau job and the review of work processes from the point of view of integrated data processing. {3}

In January 1959, Victor Christgau, Director, Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, responded to the recommendation of the Hohaus Group by establishing the Central Study Staff within the Division of Management Planning and Services. {4} The major report of the Central Study Staff, dated September 1959, confirmed the Hohaus Group's expectations of significant gains in service, accuracy, and economy through the exploitation of electronic data processing equipment. Such exploitation, it was reported, would be dependent upon effecting certain re-arrangements in operations and organization aimed at integrating these related aspects of
the Bureau's work, thus developing somewhat more fully the total systems concept. {5}

Early in 1960, the various projects required in planning an integrated data processing system were organized in the newly established Central Planning Staff, a small organizational unit within the Bureau's Division of Management, composed principally of former members of the Central Study Staff. The Central Planning Staff, under the direction of George E. Rawson, was subsequently detached from the Division of Management, and a long-range
planning group was informally organized within the Staff to spearhead and consolidate the developments contributing to a total systems plan.{6}

It was this small staff, in regular contact with top Bureau leadership, which performed the difficult task of detailed analysis, evaluation, adaptation, and integration of data to form the basis for beginning the actual design of a total long-range system. These were the quiet years of painstaking work in which the immediate benefits of short term computer applications within the Bureau obscured the steady progress in basic research and planning.

By October of 1963, it was possible to define and schedule the steps necessary to produce and publish the Total Data Systems Plan.{7} In 1964, the total data systems design was refined, complete descriptions of the design, the data requirements, and systems logic were written, theoretical hypotheses were tested.

In February 1965, after top-level review and appropriate modification, the final draft of the four volume plan was presented for close scrutiny and thorough evaluation by technical, policy, and program specialists throughout the Social Security Administration. {8}

While final approval of the Plan was being considered, part of the Central Planning Staff, including the total data systems group, was redesignated the Division of Systems Coordination and Planning within the Office of Administration as part of the reorganization of the Administration. {9}

On August 18, 1965, the Commissioner of Social Security approved the general systems concepts and values of the Total Data Systems Plan, and directed the Office of Administration to work out plans for a step-by-step implementation of an integrated data system of the type envisioned by the Total Data Systems Plan. {10}

Within the Office of Administration, the Division of Systems Coordination and Planning was given the mission of providing overall Social Security Administration leadership and direction for systems planning, of developing, maintaining and improving the total data processing system, of establishing systems policies and standards, of reviewing and evaluating proposed systems and equipment changes for conformity with long-range Social Security Administration planning goals, and of assuring the integration of such systems {11} Under the direction of the Assistant Commissioner, Office of Administration, the responsibility for fulfilling this mission was assigned to Gerald L. Boyd, one of the original members of the Central Planning Staff.

Locking at the Total Data Systems Plan in detail, it can be seen that itis a projection of the earlier activities of the Social SecurityAdministration n in its search to improve its way of doing business. {12}

Initially, the use of electric accounting machines and, subsequently, the application of electronic data processing machines kept pace with the vastly expanded workloads and with the increased variety and complexity of the eligibility requirements for benefit payments. The result was a high degree of specialization in the work performed by both man and machine, an increased number of specialized work stations, and the inability to take sufficiently prompt appropriate action on a case because case folders were in process at some other point is a relatively long chain of work stations. {13}

These conditions tended to obstruct the achievement of certain fundamental objectives of the Social Security Administration which appeared in the Total Data Systems Plan as the following primary and secondary goals of the Plan: (1) To pay the right amount to the right person at the right time at the lowest cost commensurate with sound administration and proper service to the public; (2) To obtain data for planning, control, and appropriate social purposes; (3) To add flexibility to the system forready response to changing requirements and conditions. {14}

The Total Data Systems Plan attacks the conditions which impede progress toward these goals in three ways: (1) by increased automation of complicated specialized processes, thereby integrating multiple clerical and computational processes into individual computer subsystems and linking major computer subsystems with one another as well as the centralized and integrated electronic system with residual peripheral clerical processes; (2) by reducing the number of work stations, thus reducing error, normal processing time, and delays in the processing of cases; (3) by minimizing folder reference, identifying, where necessary, the location of folders, and providing the necessary data to take timely action with current data, thereby improving the time, cost, accuracy, efficiency, and service factors.{15}

In 1965, shortly after approval of the Total Data Systems Plan, the whole complex of earnings record subsystems was linked with the network of benefit payment subsystems, thus making it possible to enter data affecting possible payments under social security into the electronic data processing system from over 600 points of contact with the public across the nation, to associate that data with earnings record data or existing benefit payment data, to electronically take the appropriate action, notify affected organizations, pay the proper benefit, and revise the master records without interrupting the data flow through the integrated system. Naturally, this fully automated system could not be implemented for every type of action at once. Nevertheless, since 1965, major advances toward the first, goal of the total data system, permit the following report of progress:

1. The vast majority of data processing actions resulting from claims for social security benefits have been fully or substantially automated, along with many formerly professional and clerical supporting actions. This involves the electronic evaluation of entitlement data, the selection of the most advantageous periods of earnings, the computation of benefit amounts, including retroactive benefits, the production of various types of records, and the transfer of data to the Treasury Department for the issuance of benefit checks.

2. After entitlement to social security benefits has been established for a person, the system provides for the automatic adjustment of his records, and automatic alteration of his payment status, if he changes his address, returns to work, becomes entitled to a new kind of benefit or could receive a higher benefit amount, returns a check or is overpaid, becomes incapable of handling his own funds, or if an event occurs which makes it necessary to terminate his benefits.

The Total Data Systems Plan has ordered, facilitated, and accelerated tie integration of the complex subsystems necessary to process these changes automatically, with the net results of substantially solving the volume-complexity problems which might otherwise have prevented the achievement of the first goal, and of positively contributing to improvements in accuracy, processing time, economy, and service in the payment of benefits.

The automation of the basic processes of the Social Security Administration has resulted in significant progress toward the second goal of providing data for planning, control, and appropriate social purposes. A wide variety of statistical data, in sufficiently reliable volume, on the nature, size, and distribution of workloads, relative processing time accuracy of payment actions, personnel productivity, equipment utilization, population characteristics, and data on economic and social trends are automatically and economically interrelated within the system and linked with data in the systems of other government agencies serving the public.

Folder references at work stations formerly established to extract the necessary statistical data and to perform the clerical and professional actions now performed electronically have been, to a great extent, eliminated. The establishment of a folder control system encompassing major work stations across the nation has facilitated necessary folder references, and internal electronic intelligence and control of the status of actions is in the implementation stages.

The extent of progress in achieving the third goal of the Total Data Systems Plan, namely, to add flexibility to the system for ready response to changing requirements and conditions, has been dramatically demonstrated within the past 2 years.

On the one hand, the initial establishment of records for millions of beneficiaries entitled to hospital and medical insurance benefits, the integration of the system for the continuing enrollment of such applicants with the previously existing retirement, survivors, and disability insurance system, the integration of the system for medicalinsurance premium billing and collection with the previously existing system simply could not have occurred within the short deadline providedby the 1965 Amendments without the earlier progress in systems integrationof which the Total Data Systems Plan is the framework.

On the other hand, the 1965 amendments provided for the reappraisal (without the necessity to file an application) of the benefit amounts payable to all current beneficiaries on the basis of earnings reported after the existing benefit amounts were established. The magnitude of this challenge, involving millions of beneficiaries, would have required years of tedious and expensive clerical work if the facility for comparable interchange and automated comparison of data from the earnings record s stem and payment record system, had not been previously created. Not only was the greater part of the task compressed within the period of a few months, but the automatic earnings reappraisal operations, as an annually recurring process, forged a new and permanent link in the integration of the Social Security Administration's processes as envisaged by the Total Data Systems Plan.

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

{1}The successive volumes of the Total Data Systems Plan, which are included with this narrative, contain an exposition of a fundamental conceptual approach and a wealth of illustrative systems detail interrelating advanced theory and concrete application in the context of the day-to-day work of the Social Security Administration. They constituted a major milestone in the Administration's continuing progress toward the goal of economy and efficiency in government operations.

{2} A Report to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare on the Operation of the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance by a group of specially appointed consultants, June 1958, pp. iii, iv.

{3} See Footnote 1, p. 4

{4} OASI Report on the Study of the Claims Process, Central Study Staff Claims Process Study, September 1959, p. 2

{5} See Footnote 3, p. 29

{6} "Bureau "s Newest Staff Prepares for IDP," reprinted from OASIS. Functions of the Central Planning Staff, extracted from the position description, Staff. Director, Central Planning Staff.

{7} Informal memorandum from Richard D. Shepherd to Mr. George E. Rawson, "Prospectus of Long-Range Planning Group's Meeting with Mr. Ball," October 7, 1963.

Work Plans 1963-64.

{8} Memorandum from George E. Rawson, Staff Director, Central Planning Staff to Mr. Robert M. Ball, Commissioner of Social Security, "Final Volume of the Total Data Systems Plan," Feb. 4, 1965.

Memorandum from George E. Rawson, Staff Director, Central Planning Staff to See Below, "Total Data Systems Plan," Feb. 23, 1965.

{9} Memorandum with enclosures from Jack S. Futterman, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Administration to See Below, "Reorganization Memorandum No. 1 -Approved reorganization of the Social Security Administration," July 26; 1965.

{10} Commissioner's Decisions - August 18, 1965, 135.

{l1} Dept. Staff Manual, "Organization," Office of the Secretary, Appendix A8-070.

{12} Total Data Systems Plan, Introduction and Summary, pp. iii, 2, i.

{13} See above, pp. 4-5.

{14} The Objectives of the Social Security Administration, U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Social Security Administration (U. S. Government Printing Office, August 1965): No. 1966 0-222-691

Total Data Systems Plan, Introduction and Summary, pp. 12, 16

{15} Total Data Systems Plan. Introduction and Summary, pp. 5, 20-23