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Never Out with the Old at the Social Security Administration

The May, 2016 report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Social Security Administration (SSA) addressed the Disability Case Processing System (DCPS) being developed by SSA to perform its work.

Since 2008 when SSA decided to proceed with the DCPS system, it has invested over $300M into the project and has endured many delays. This amount is equivalent to nine years maintenance on the current systems utilized. The DCPS systems project appears to have failed and will be of little benefit. Even if implemented, the first stage of implementation for only limited use would cost between $90 – 165M with no estimated accounting for operating costs for the new system once implemented. No cost estimate has been placed for full project implementation.

Given the problems experienced, OIG has recommended that SSA discontinue its efforts to develop DCPS in November, 2014. SSA decided to proceed further with the project instead.

In 2015, a review by the United States Digital Service (USDS) identified significant concerns with the software including coding problems and an overly complex database design which led to degraded performance. Based on these findings, SSA finally decided to discontinue development of the DCPS software. The new monies invested into trying to prove the usefulness of the software were approximately $23M.

Following discontinuation of the specialized software, SSA decided to pursue another avenue and utilize commercially available software. This was termed the “Core” approach. The first release of the Core Sytem is due between July and December, 2016, at a cost of $90 – 165M. In redeveloping the DCPS system, SSA believes it can reuse 22% ($71M) to develop the Core functionality. In other words, it will have wasted approximately $300M in the unsuccessful development efforts invested into the DCPS system.

The OIG report criticizes SSA for its failure to discontinue its efforts to develop the DCPS and continuing to rely on maintenance on its old systems. In addition, SSA was faulted in failing to address “critical functionality that could have had a significant effect on the long-term costs and schedule.”

What concerns OIG is that SSA has failed to undertake any comprehensive analysis of alternatives to its current system. Without such consideration, it cannot be determined if the system can be simplified in terms of support and maintenance so as to reduce infrastructure costs. Moreover, SSA failed to provide detailed documentation of the assessments it did undertaken, preventing any independent evaluation of the reasonableness of its decisions.

This ordeal is a perfect example of a “Golden Fleece” awardee if Senator William Proxmire (D-Wis, 1957 – 89) ) were still with us today. This is a tremendous waste of government resources with little oversight or regard to the taxpayer.

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