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The Social Security Administration 2018 Agenda

SSA 2018

As a matter of background, the Social Security Administration (SSA) employs 62,000 federal and 16,000 state workers across the United States and its territories.

SSA is hoping to improve service through several measures. It is hoping to expand its customer service model through its website by allowing appeal of non-disability matters over the Internet. As part of this, SSA will be rolling out an internet chat help service. By doing so, it is hoping to achieve 25 million transactions each year.

SSA also hopes to expand video service at both convenient and remote sites including hospitals, libraries, tribal centers, and homeless shelters. This may include the addition of judge-only hearing sites which may partner with other governmental agencies providing administrative review hearings.

Other measures being undertaken to address the severe case hearing backlog include developing an occupational information system, developing a disability case processing system, and using health information technology to assist in expediting disability decisions. No specifics concerning these aspirational measures were discussed.

SSA has announced new compassionate (fast track) allowances for the following conditions: fibrolamellar cancer, megacytis microcolon intestinal hypoperistalsis syndrome, megalencephaly capillary malformation syndrome, superficial siderosis of the central nervous system, and tetrasomy. In the many thousands of cases done by this firm constituting nearly fifty combined years of Social Security work, we have never had a client with any of these diagnoses.

SSA is enhancing its Electronic Claims Analysis Tool (eCAT) which will guide adjudicators through the sequential evaluation process for determining disability. This system costs about $31M annually to operate and maintain. It is being rolled out on an incremental basis.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) surveyed users of eCAT and found that only 58% of users were satisfied with using the system with 28% expressing strong dissatisfaction with the system. This dissatisfaction has affected the adoption rate of use of this software. Problems with eCAT include the inability to support multiple printers (with persons in one office having to share a single printer to use this system), need to workaround the system in areas that it does not support, and the inability to efficiently manage caseloads using the system.

Unfortunately, eCAT has not been implemented for the purpose of undertaking continuing disability reviews. This is of pressing importance as the OIG has estimated that 1.1M SSI recipients (1 in 8 recipients) had not had a redetermination of their disabled status in more than 10 years. It estimated that this failure to review has resulted in a overpayments of approximately $381.5M.

SSA discusses that it wishes to improve employment support outreach to targeted working-age beneficiaries. Turning this objective into action has not happened as this has resulted in mailing notices to 35,000 new beneficiaries each month with no follow-up or other contact.

Similarly, SSA states that it is working to build a model workforce to deliver quality service. Currently, SSA is losing far more employees that it is hiring at a time when increasing numbers of disability and retirement claims are being made. The employment losses stem from older workers retiring from SSA, resulting in a loss of institutional knowledge (“brain drain”). New employees require lengthy training until their productivity nears the levels of these experienced employees. To aid in this, SSA has started mentoring partnerships. In its efforts to develop leaders, SSA has instituted several leadership development programs.

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