In an article from May 4th on nextgov.com covering technology and the business of government, it was reported that the Social Security Administration is deploying pilot projects to handle the tremendous increase in claims that the Agency has received in the last few years.
As a regular user of the online claims processes, I can see the vast improvements that have been made to the Agency’s internet services in the last few years. While the online applications process used to be disjointed and closely aligned to the paper applications, the online application has evolved into a relatively streamlined process that certainly helps prevent the Field Offices from getting totally inundated by the paperwork that was associated with the old, paper-dependent claims process.
Here’s a personal example of how the Administration has been streamlining some of their processes:
Just yesterday I reviewed a letter from a Field Office asking that one of my clients come in for a final evaluation of SSI eligibility. The hearing on the issue of disability was less than 10 days ago, and because the process of writing, signing and mailing the decision takes time, we continue to wait for the written decision by the Judge. Yet because it just takes the push of a button, the field office is already setting up a time to meet him to expedite payment of his benefits!
Even as I can laud how the Agency is working hard to streamline the process, I am still less than pleased with the progress made with Video Hearings. While I have done my share of those hearings, I still cannot understand why I get better video resolution and sound using a free online application to see and speak to my friends and relatives abroad than my clients can experience after waiting 12-24 months to be heard by an Administrative Law Judge. The Agency must improve its video conferencing technology before I am totally comfortable with my clients having their hearings that way.