President Joe Biden on Monday signed an executive order aiming to “improve the customer experience” for the American people on a number of critical services, including filing and managing taxes, passport renewal and claiming retirement benefits.
The order seeks to build “accountability and transparency into everything we do” and demonstrate that the Biden administration is “good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
"Bureaucracies assume that people understand how they function," Biden said during a ceremony in the White House on Monday afternoon. "But it's really a very complicated web for the vast majority of people, whether they have PhDs or a high school education. And so today, I'm signing an executive order to ensure that the federal government puts you, the American people, at the front of the line."
The directive calls for a total of 17 government agencies to focus on key areas where they can make it "easier to apply for services or benefits" that Americans are entitled to under the federal government, like social security or Medicare.
One change called for in the order is improvement to the passport renewal process, making it available online instead of by in-person appointment.
"That is something that will start this month and expand," said Neera Tanden, senior adviser to the president. "That is something that the agency, [the Department of] State has been working on."
Another initiative is to establish a call-back system for government agencies who serve Americans regularly, such as the Internal Revenue Service, where people often have trouble getting through to speak to a representative.
"We don't think people should be waiting on a phone line," said Jason Miller, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. "They should be able to get through or schedule a call-back at their convenience. This is a goal across our services."
The order will seek to cut the red tape around certain government services, which require people to physically visit government offices, deal with cumbersome paperwork, handle delays involving mail or fax machines. Miller said most of the changes in the order are expected to be finished within a year.
“Whether searching for vaccine safety information, claiming retirement benefits, receiving health insurance, passing through a security checkpoint, or checking the status of a farm loan application, Americans expect government services to be responsive to their needs,” the fact sheet reads. “But too often, people have to navigate a tangled web of government websites, offices, and phone numbers to access the services they depend on.”
All told, the order will overhaul more than 30 “customer experiences” across 17 agencies.
"The bottom line is, we're going to make the government work more effectively with American citizens," Biden said of his order. "So it's not as confusing, and it's straightforward."
Among the proposed changes, Americans will be able to:
- Renew passports securely online;
- Schedule customer support call-backs from the IRS when filing taxes;
- Claim retirement benefits online and utilize a streamlined Medicare enrollment experience;
- Manage, apply for and repay federal student loans through one single repayment program and apply for loan forgiveness programs more easily;
- Access Veterans Affairs health care and benefits more easily;
- Grocery shop online for those enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC);
- Get more automated access to electronic prenatal, birth and postpartum health records;
- Have increased access to telehealth and remote health care programs;
- Submit applications for loans, grants and other programs via the Small Business Administration or Department of Agriculture
The order Biden signed Monday also includes measures for accountability to make sure changes are implemented.
"We're going to measure customer experience. We're going to measure it at a granular level, including designing and delivering our services from the user perspective," Miller explained. "Those high-impact service providers are going to be required to have annual improvement plans."
"The president likes to make clear his expectations on accountability. His 'Sheriff Joe' nickname came because of that," he added.
The order will also revamp USA.gov, which the Biden administration called the "digital federal front door."
The overhauled site will allow users to "get access to all government benefits, services, and programs in just 1 to 3 clicks, taps, or commands from the USA.gov homepage, without navigating duplicate and outdated Federal websites," including a brand new home page that will " feature a new user experience based on the key life events, moments that matter most, and top tasks that Americans experience throughout their lives when interacting with government."