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No Gobbledygook Award 12

The White House
Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release
October 2, 1999

Vice President Gore Praises Social Security Employees for Plain Language Rewrite of “Your Social Security Statement”

Washington, DC - Vice President Al Gore awarded Marlene Pegg and Maruita Bontz his Plain Language award for September for their rewrite of the Social Security Administration (SSA) form, “Your Social Security Statement.”

Marlene and Maruita were the principal authors of the new form, developed with input from citizen focus groups and a mail survey sent to 16, 000 people. They reduced the new form from six pages to four and significantly reorganized it for clarity. This redesign improves readability by using plain language, more open space, larger type and fewer words. Social Security will start mailing the form next week to 500,000 people a day. When the SSA sends the annual Statement to 125 million workers, it will launch the largest customized mailing ever undertaken by a Federal agency.

“Millions of Americans depend on Social Security, and by making critical information simpler and more easy to understand, we are better serving the public,” said Vice President Al Gore. “At a time when Americans face competing demands of work and family, time is very valuable which is why we must do everything possible to allow them to focus on their priorities - their families. It’s a great example of government working for you to save you time and money!”

“Knowing what Social Security can provide should be the first step any family takes in their long-range financial planning,” said Social Security Commissioner Kenneth Apfel. “That job has now been made much easier through the simplified, understandable information found in the Social Security Statement. The two SSA employees being honored today by Vice President Gore have performed a great service for the average American family.”

Today’s award builds on an Executive Memorandum the Vice President announced on June 1, 1998. The memorandum directed all executive departments and agencies to:

  1. Write any new document that tells the public how to get a benefit or comply with a requirement in plain language by October 1, 1998;
  2. Write all new government regulations in plain language by January 1, 1999; and
  3. Revise all existing letters and notices into plain language by 2002.