The impact of technology on every aspect of contemporary life is huge, and once used to the convenience and efficiency technological advances bring it is difficult to survive without it. Take the case of government information. When this is put online and made easily findable, readily available, accessible, understandable and usable, you get to interact with your government in innovative ways. In the field of law and medicine, technology has transformed the way important documents such as medical records are retrieved for medical claims review and medical peer review. Electronic government or eGovernment allows easy sharing of government data and information with the public and thereby bringing about openness and transparency to all government processes.
In the United States, among the many government organizations striving to increase convenience of services to people, is the SSA or Social Security Administration. At present, the SSA is around six months into a five-year effort to modernize the agency’s aging IT infrastructure. Many of the planned upgrades are for the services used by the general public. The agency will focus on improving communications and existing services. According to Sean Brune, chief program officer for IT modernization at SSA, they are currently working to put all their online services behind the agency’s secure online portal “My Social Security.” All members of the public are encouraged to establish their own My Social Security account. With this, they can see all the relevant services for their circumstance such as checking claims status, filing claims, and services for representative payees.
With increasing mobile usage, the SSA will have to focus also on more mobile digital services. The agency has in fact been building responsive design into all new services so that everything is easily accessible on users’ mobile devices as well.
For social security disability applicants, the welcome news is that these IT modernization ventures also include updating the disability claims processing application. This will help SSA reduce the backlog and enhance cybersecurity. The agency has two secure data processing centers. It recognizes the necessity for cybersecurity to be acknowledged as a foundation in the IT modernization plan and ensured across all their core business functions that include:
- The disability determination process for disability benefits
- Title 2 processes which include retirement, survivors and auxiliaries insurance
The SSA also aims to enhance the Title 16 supplemental security income, the enumeration workload for issuing social security numbers and the workload for collecting workers’ annual earnings on a recurrent basis.
For more efficiency and timeliness of claims processing, the SSA already has cloud infrastructure in operation. It has plans to rely more on cloud computing and data storage. They are executing their plans on a prospective basis to determine the most efficient, cost-effective platform on which to run the software.
Steps such as the above mentioned would speed up the disability determination process, which is very important as disability attorneys and their partnering medical record retrieval companies would agree. To fix the multi-year backlog of applications, the U.S. government is providing $100 million for the SSA. According to the latest statistics from the SSA, around 1 million people are stuck in a hearing-decision backlog – an average of 599 days or 20 months. In some cities and states, the wait times are around 772 days. With federal funding and increased investment in modern technology, the social security backlog should surely reduce. The modernization plan will enable the SSA to scrutinize how the agency conducts business.