Document Name: App B: Text of Cus. Svc. Stnds: Beneficiaries (14 of 23)
Date: 09/01/94
Owner: National Performance Review
Title: App B: Text of Cus. Svc. Stnds: Beneficiaries (14 of 23)

Author: Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review

Date: September, 1994


Appendix B: Text of Customer Service Standards





Department of Agriculture


Food and Nutrition Service


Manages the food stamp program.

--- We promise to let you know if you're eligible for food stamps as

soon as possible, but no later than 30 days after you file your

application. You'll need to fill out your application as soon as

possible, but you can start counting the days as soon as you contact

the food stamp office and give us your name, address, and signature.

--- If you qualify for immediate assistance, we promise to give you

your food stamp benefits within five days.

--- We promise to let you know at least one month before your food

stamp benefits are due to stop. If you apply to continue your food by

the 15th of your last month -- and you still qualify -- we'll make

sure your benefits are not interrupted.

--- If we say you don't qualify and you don't agree with our

decision, just ask and we promise to give you a fair hearing. We also

promise to let you know the results of your appeal within 60 days.

--- We promise to treat you fairly and equally regardless of your

age, race, color, sex, handicap, religion, national origin, or

political beliefs.

Department of Defense


Defense Logistics Agency


Defense Personnel Support Center Homeless Support Initiative

Provides clothing and bedding to organizations housing the homeless.

--- The standard we have set is that we respond to the need

indicated. Normal delivery time is two weeks; however, overnight

delivery is accomplished if necessary.

Department of Health and Human Services


Health Care Financing Administration


Manages the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Written responses:

--- We will answer your written inquiries within 30 days of receipt.

If getting you an accurate answer will take longer, we will keep you

Telephone standards:

--- We will respond to your telephone inquiries in a pleasant and

helpful manner. We will provide an immediate answer whenever

possible. If we cannot provide an immediate answer, we will give you

a firm commitment as to when an answer can be provided.

--- Nobody likes to be put on hold. Our standard is that callers will

be "on hold" for no more than two minutes.

--- Calls made in off hours will be returned the next business day.

Information needs:

--- We are asking our customers to help us improve all of our

publications and notices so they can be understood by our customers.

We will begin using new publications and notices beginning early next


Claims processing (Medicare):

--- We are currently working hard to simplify our claims processing

system to provide you with more consistent determinations.

--- We will process your claims for service accurately and within the

times provided for in the law.

--- If you are not satisfied with the action we take on your claim,

you can appeal and we will process your appeal fairly, accurately,

and within established timeframes. We are working to reduce the

paperwork burden associated with appeals.

Customer satisfaction:

--- We will measure your satisfaction with Medicare and Medicaid

through the use of customer surveys, focus groups, public comments,

and meetings with customer representatives.

--- We are setting up groups of customers who volunteer to give us

assistance in setting standards and evaluating our performance.

--- We will identify customers who have special needs related to

vision, hearing, mobility, health status, literacy, language, and

other factors. We will make a special effort to help these customers

with access to services and information.

Health care choices:

--- We will provide clear, understandable information about the

options our customers have in choosing a managed health care plan,

including information about individual plans, to assist them in

making health care decisions.

Medicaid special standard:

--- We will encourage all states to establish customer service

standards for Medicaid, and we will work with them to assure a goal

of continuous improvement in customer service and program


Health care quality:

--- We will provide doctors and hospitals with information they can

use to give better care to our beneficiaries, and we will monitor the

effect of those activities.

--- We will expedite our investigative and case review process as

much as the law will permit when a complaint involves quality issues.

--- We will respond to verbal or written complaints from

beneficiaries or their representatives by mailing a complaint form to

them within two working days of the telephone contact or responding

in writing to written beneficiary complaints within 10 working days.

Program administration:

--- We will fully investigate all leads about potential program fraud

and abuse in order to protect against unnecessary expenditures.

--- We will work with our partners, our agents, states, other

interested parties, and our customers to identify and implement

creative and effective approaches to improving our programs and our


Public Health Service

Indian Health Service

Provides health care services to American Indians and Alaskan


--- Your right: You deserve to know who is treating you and what

services are available to help maintain your health.

Our standard: Our staff will verbally identify themselves to you

upon contact, will wear name tags, and will provide information on

the types of services available to you.

--- Your right: You deserve respectful care and consideration for

your emotional, social, cultural, and spiritual values and comfort.

Our standard: Our staff will be oriented through in-service

training to be sensitive to your emotional, social, cultural and

spiritual values and comfort.

--- Your right: You deserve to have all the information you need to

help you and your family make treatment decisions in partnership with

your health care providers.

Our standard: Our staff will inform you and answer your
questions about your treatment. The information provided to you will

be documented in your medical record.

--- Your right: You have a choice to accept or refuse medical care to

the extent permitted by law, and to be informed of the medical

consequences of such refusal.

Our standard: Our staff will discuss with you our recommended

treatment and document your decision in your medical record.

--- Your right: You deserve to be assured of your personal privacy

and the confidentiality of your medical records.

Our standard: We will take full responsibility for protecting

your personal privacy and the confidentiality of your medical

records. Except as authorized by law, any use of your record outside

of your personal health care will be undertaken only with your

written permission.

--- Your right: You have the right to expect that within our capacity

we will be responsive to your requests for services.

Our standard: Our staff will respond to your requests for

services as quickly as possible. For services not available locally,

you and your family will be informed how and where you can obtain

these services and whether transportation will be provided.

Social Security Administration


Manages the Social Security programs.

We will administer our programs effectively and efficiently to

protect and maintain the Social Security trust funds and to ensure

public confidence in the value of Social Security. We are committed

to fair and equitable service to our customers. We promise to respect

your privacy and safeguard the information in your Social Security


We are equally committed to providing you with world-class public

service. When you conduct business with us, you can expect:

--- We will provide service through knowledgeable employees who will

treat you with courtesy, dignity, and respect every time you do

business with us.

--- We will provide you with our best estimate of the time needed to

complete your request and fully explain any delays.

--- We will clearly explain our decisions so you can understand why

and how we made them and what to do if you disagree.

--- We will make sure our offices are safe and pleasant and our

services are accessible.

--- When you make an appointment we will serve you within 10 minutes

of the scheduled time.

--- If you request a new or replacement Social Security card from one

of our offices, we will mail it to you within five working days of

our receiving all the information we need. If you have an urgent need

for the Social Security number, we will tell you the number within

one working day.

We know that you expect world-class service in all of your dealings

with us. Today, we are unable to meet your expectations in some

areas, but we are working to change that. We are revising all our

critical work processes to make them simpler, quicker, and more

customer friendly. When we redesign our processes, you can expect:

--- When you call our 800 number, you will get through to it within

five minutes of your first try. (Today we often are not able to meet

this pledge. During our busiest days you will get a busy signal much

of the time.)

--- When you apply for disability benefits, you will get a decision

within 60 days. (Today we often are not able to meet your

expectations, but we are getting better. In 1994, we made disability

decisions two weeks faster then we did in 1992. We will give you our

best estimate of how long it should take to get your disability

decision at the time you apply.)

Department of Housing and Urban Development


Office of Housing/Federal Housing Authority


Stimulates housing through direct financing, loan guarantees,

interest rate subsidies, mortgage insurance, etc.

You can expect our employees to meet the following standards:


--- Every customer is entitled to courteous treatment.

--- Every employee represents the Office of Housing.

--- Display name plates or wear name tags as appropriate.

--- Identify yourself and your organization every time you have a


--- Don't drop the ball -- direct correspondence and telephone calls

to the correct party.

--- When transferring a customer, take time to reassure the customer

that assistance can be obtained by speaking with another party in the

office and that they are not being shuffled around.

--- After assisting a customer, offer to provide additional

assistance at a later time should the need arise.

--- Provide a "real person" alternative to all voice-mail messages.

--- Strive to provide foreign-language alternatives and alternatives

for the deaf and blind, when necessary.

Quality products:

--- Provide all available information to a customer on the first call

or letter; ensure that all questions are answered.

--- Write in plain English, not technical or government jargon.

--- Follow-up regularly to ensure that quality products are provided.

--- Advise customers/partners in writing when new policies or changes

are being considered; involve them in the development phase.

--- Consider the needs of customers/partners when developing products

and procedures.

--- Apprise customers/partners of operational problems, e.g., don't

wait for the customer to call only to be told the system they need is


--- Reach out to customers -- go to their place of business when

possible; conduct regular conference calls.

--- Include a contact name, organization, telephone number, and

effective date on every document, e.g., handbook, Mortgagee Letter,

congressional and general correspondence.

Timely service:

--- Ensure adequate telephone coverage throughout the business day;

answer all phone calls by the third ring.

--- Respond to all telephone inquiries within 24 hours.

--- Respond to written correspondence within 10 working days.

--- Provide an interim response when a complete response requires

extra time for research or there is a heavy workload.

--- Provide "1-800" customer service numbers when possible and

economically feasible.


--- Establish quantitative customer service goals and incorporate

them into performance standards and Housing's Plan where possible.

--- Establish quantitative processing standards for each program or


--- Solicit feedback and react to customer comments.

--- Train all employees regularly on customer service initiatives.

--- Institute random supervisory quality control checks to ensure

that appropriate and adequate customer service is provided.

--- Encourage teamwork so all staff are thoroughly informed.

--- Provide basic program training to clerical staff, particularly

those who deal with the public.

--- Include in the headquarters telephone directory and each field

office telephone directory a contact name and telephone number for

each program area, e.g., Single Family Mortgage Servicing, John Doe,


--- Always conduct oneself as a representative of the organization.

Mortgage Assignment Program

Provides an alternative to mortgagors (customers) who are on the

verge of losing their home to foreclosure.

The following customer service standard is used by field office staff

in handling customers who are seeking relief:

--- Customer receives written notice from the mortgagee that their

mortgage is in default. The letter outlines the eligibility

requirements for the Mortgage Assignment Program and gives the

Customer 15 calendar days to contact the HUD field office.

--- Customer contacts field office staff and requests acceptance into

the Mortgage Assignment Program.

--- Staff identifies documents needed to make eligibility

determination and schedules a conference with the customer.

--- Staff completes analyses of documents prior to conference.

--- Decision on acceptance into the Mortgage Assignment Program is

made within 90 calendar days from the date of the customer's initial
telephone call to the date of final decision.

Mortgage Approval Process

--- Processing time from the date of receipt of the application

package to date of final approval/rejection is 45 calendar days.

Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance, Section 203(k)

Provides mortgage insurance for the purchase or refinance and

rehabilitation of single-family properties.

Mortgagees (partners) make Section 203(k) loans available because HUD

insures the mortgage before rehabilitation work is completed. If you

are the mortgagee, you can expect us to meet this standard:

--- Processing is competed and a mortgage insurance certificate is

issued to the mortgagee within 10 days of HUD's receipt of the closed



Department of Labor


Pension Welfare Benefits Administration


Administers and enforces standards to protect assets in private

pension and benefit plans worth $2 trillion.

What you can expect -- if you telephone:

--- A friendly courteous voice.

--- A representative who will listen to your questions and be

sensitive to your request.

--- A return call no later than the end of the next business day.

What you can expect -- if you write:

--- A reply within 30 days of our receiving your letter.

--- A clear, easy-to-read response.

What you can expect -- anytime:

--- Straightforward information on how the law applies to your


--- Information on options that may be available.

--- Respect for your privacy.

--- The name of the employee assisting you.


Department of the Treasury


Financial Management Service


Check Claims

Handles claims for lost or missing checks.

--- We are reinventing our process so that it will take less time to

process claims by reducing our average processing time by 40 days!

--- We are also reinventing our process to reduce the Federal Program

Agency Check Claims cycle time by five days.


Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation


Protects the benefits of participants in private sector pension plans

and provides timely payment of benefits for those pension plans that

have been terminated.

We pledge that:

--- In all communications with you, we will acknowledge your inquiry

within one week. If we cannot give you an immediate answer, we will

tell you when to expect it and we will give you a specific point of


--- If it will take us longer than expected to answer your question,

we will give you a status report and tell you a new date when to

expect an answer.

--- If you are receiving a pension check, changes you request (such

as address change, direct deposit, tax change) will be made within 30

days, if the request is received by the first of the month. It will

take another month if the request is received after the first of the



Railroad Retirement Board


An independent agency administering retirement, disability, and

unemployment/sickness for railroad employees.


--- We will be courteous and treat you with respect every time you

contact us.

--- The information you provide us is protected under the provisions

of the Privacy Act.

--- We will reply within 10 working days of receiving your letter. If

for any reason we cannot, we will acknowledge your letter and tell

you how long it will be before we can answer your questions fully.

--- If you filed for your railroad retirement employee or spouse

annuity in advance, you will receive your first payment, or a

decision, within 45 days of your date of retirement.

--- If you filed for a railroad retirement survivor annuity or lump

sum benefit, you will receive your first payment, or a decision,

within 75 days from the date you filed your application, or became

entitled to benefits, if later.

--- If you filed an application for unemployment or sickness

insurance benefits, you will receive a claim form, or a decision,

within 15 days of the date we receive your application.

--- If you filed a claim for unemployment or sickness insurance

benefits, you will receive your payments, or a decision, within 15

days of the date we receive your claim form.

--- If you filed for a railroad retirement disability annuity, you

will receive your first payment, or a decision, within 120 days from

the date you filed your application.

--- If you think we made the wrong decision about your benefits, you

have the right to ask for review and to appeal. We will tell you

about these rights each time we make an unfavorable decision about

your benefits.

--- Claims for some benefits may take longer to handle than others if

they are more complex, or if we have to get information from other

people or organizations. If this happens, we will give you an

explanation and an estimate of the time required to make a decision.


--- We will display in each office how well we are meeting the

established standards.

--- When you visit our offices, the staff will identify themselves by


--- When you telephone us, we will identify ourselves by name.

--- Our letters will be easy to understand, and, unless the letter is

a computer notice, the person writing to you will give you his/her



--- When you telephone us, you should be able to reach us on the

first try.

--- When visiting us, you will be helped within five minutes of your

scheduled appointment.

--- You will not have to wait more than 30 minutes if you do not have

an appointment.

--- If you cannot come to our office, we may be able to visit you at

home or at one of our regularly scheduled service locations.


--- If things go wrong, at the very least you are entitled to a good

explanation and an apology.

--- A Customer Assessment Survey form is available in every office

for you to tell us how we did and how we can improve our services.

--- If you are not satisfied with our service, you may contact the

manger of the office with which you have been dealing, or the

Regional Director who is responsible for that office. Their names and

addresses are available in each office.
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