Farewell To A Great Bureaucrat

By Jeffrey R. Lewis, Contributor from NAPSI

Quiet but effective, Jo Anne B. Barnhart, the retiring commissioner of Social Security, did a common thing uncommonly well. In an era when generating political spin points, trumping the opposition and seeking ideological achievement have become the principal determinants of leadership, her commitment to being a reserved, focused and dedicated manager and leader is a remarkable accomplishment. Her work and legacy should not be ignored. (Check out www.ssa.gov — A comprehensive website dedicated to helping our citizens)

Social Security Administration

Social Security Administration

Her agency, the Social Security Administration, has more than 1,300 offices and 65,000 employees nationwide. Each month it must get out more than 53 million benefit checks and each year take nearly 5 million new applications for benefits. Jo Anne Barnhart has led the agency with grace and has earned the admiration of many who worked with and for her. Not allowing herself to be caught by the swirling congressional and White House Social Security debate, she concentrated on running the agency.

At Social Security, she developed a service delivery plan immediately after arriving at the agency and used it to drive her budget requests-and the president and Congress have, in large part, supported them. In addition, she made the budget process as transparent as possible. Her budgets were performance based and the claims she made on treasury resources were repeatedly pegged to results that sped up processing times, reduced backlogs and created procedures that would pay large dividends in the future by making administrative sense of a morass of complicated program rules. Although many think of Social Security as a retirement program, most of the agency’s administrative resources-more than half-are spent on disability cases.

And it is here where Ms. Barnhart made her greatest mark. For decades, administration of the disability part of Social Security strangled the agency’s resources. Commissioner Barnhart made it modern, modifying a monolithic decision process that caused people to wait for up to two or three years to receive a benefit award. On her watch, more than 25 million people became entitled to benefits; one-sixth of the population received more than 600 million benefit checks annually.

Over the past five years, Ms. Barnhart has turned a bureaucracy into one of the most effective federal agencies serving the elderly and disabled. She leaves a legacy of extraordinary service and dedication to all Americans. Jeffrey R. Lewis is the president of the Heinz Family Philanthropies (jlewis@heinzoffice. org)


*Social Security is the major source of income for most of the elderly.

*Nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.

*Social Security benefits represent 41% of the income of the elderly.

*Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 54% of married couples and 74% of unmarried persons receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security.

*Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 21% of married couples and about 43% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 91% or more of their income.

For additional information you can call the SSA 800 number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1- 800-325-0778), to do anything you can do online, plus,…

*Request an application for a replacement Social Security card (We will send you a Social Security Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card.) *Correct the name on your Social Security record (You may need to mail or bring proof of your identity or other documentation to your local office)

*Have your Social Security benefits sent directly to your bank

*Discuss the rules for getting Social Security benefits

*Ask questions about your check or report a missing check

*Report a death

*Discuss the amount of your overpayment and many other things. Visit www.ssa.gov

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Posted by on Apr 30 2007. Filed under National News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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