NCSA plans Social Security study

Officials at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications will conduct a yearlong data-mining study that could help the Social Security Administration get more citizens to use the agency's Ticket to Work program for people with disabilities.

For the study, SSA officials have given the supercomputing center enrollment data from the first 13 states that have started Ticket to Work programs. NCSA's Automated Learning Group will analyze that data using a Java programming and data-analysis tool that the NCSA created for solving large-scale science and engineering problems.

Costing almost $1 million, the study reflects a growing preference among some federal agencies for using computerized transaction data instead of surveys to analyze a program's effectiveness. NCSA officials said that, in this case, the research objective is to discover the attributes of citizens who have actually used the Ticket to Work program and then to create a computer model that might help SSA program managers find ways to get more people to use it.

Through the Ticket to Work program, citizens with disabilities receive tickets that they can redeem at social service agencies, educational institutions or businesses that offer vocational rehabilitation, on-the-job placement or job placement services. SSA reimburses the service providers.

Money for the study comes from SSA through the Disability Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is also the site of the NCSA. In 2000, the university opened the research institute with a five-year, $5.25 million grant from the SSA to study disability and income security. SSA spends approximately $90 billion a year on disability insurance and income programs.

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