SSA rethinks disability claims processing

After earmarking $71 million to develop an automated system for processing disability claims, the Social Security Administration has decided to scrap its original program and salvage half the funding to field a scaled back project, SSA commissioner Kenneth Apfel said today.

SSA originally intended the Re-engineered Disability System (RDS) to improve service to disability clients by reducing processing time and providing a framework for more consistent and uniform disability decisions.

But the agency decided to "redirect" the focus of the project after a study conducted by consulting firm Booz-Allen&Hamilton Inc. suggested that operational and technical problems would mar the IT initiative, Apfel said before the House Ways and Means Committee's Social Security Subcommittee.

Apfel said that roughly half of the $71 million will be used to help SSA transition the project from a comprehensive initiative into a more incremental, supportive effort.

The remaining funds will be considered a loss, subcommittee members said.

"I believe redirecting the project was the right decision to make," Apfel said. "It will not be a comprehensive system, so it will not be able to do what we had planned for our original model."

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