By James Pavisian, Attorney
On July 24, 2014, Yvonee Wenger, a journalist at the Baltimore Sun published an article highlighting the Social Security Administration’s failure to implement a computer system that it has spent over $300 million to develop. The Social Security Administration is a federal agency. However, the states do a lot of the grunt work for the program.
As disability lawyers in Wichita, KS, we know that the Disability Determination Services (“DDS”) is under the auspice of the State’s Department for Children and Families. The Kansas DDS workers are State, not federal, employees. More importantly, DDS employees are the ones responsible for making the initial and reconsideration decisions for people applying for SSI or disability insurance benefits. Therefore, they hold great power.
The problem is that every State has a DDS run by one of its larger social service agencies. This has led to each DDS office to use different, oftentimes, proprietary software to keep track of claims, organize medical and non-medical evidence, and analyze other necessary documents exclusive to the disability determination process. This was a problem for the Social Security Administration because all of the different agencies and programs made it difficult to do quality control and keep track of critical program-specific statistics.
The software Social Security commissioned and has overspent on would have solved this problem. The software would have been implemented in all states and territories with DDS offices. This would have ensured everyone was on the same system instead of fifty different, state-specific programs. It would have also allowed Social Security to ensure all the States are playing by the same rules and to catch outliers and fraud much quicker and deal with it more efficiently.
It is unfortunate that the Agency’s efforts have been fruitless to this point. However, the status quo is too burdensome and leaves much to be desired. In my opinion, this project is one that will benefit future applicants and, therefore, should continue to be pursued. As we speak, the Agency has consulted with private sector groups to ensure steady progress.