Bush requests Social Security IT cut

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President Bush would cut almost 9 percent from the Social Security Administration's information technology modernization budget as some of the agency's projects move out of their development phases.

The administration's budget request released this week asks for $808 million for SSA's various systems modernization projects. The request is almost 9 percent less than the $887 million the Bush administration sought last year.

The Accelerated Electronic Disability System, a complex redesign of SSA's disability claims process, creates an electronic folder for each case under review. The project's $103.2 million budget request last year was reduced to $73.5 million in fiscal 2005 as the project moved out of the development and deployment phases and into operation.

Funding for a digital recording system for administrative law judge hearings would be reduced from $13.1 million to $3.5 million because the major development work has been completed and hearing offices around the nation are beginning to use the new system.

The agency does request funding increases for some key programs. SSA's Title II Redesign, a multiyear project to digitize and speed up the processing of Social Security retirement and survivors insurance claims, would get $20.7 million -- a $900,000 increase. And for expansion of services based on its electronic wage reporting system, the agency could get $10.4 million -- a $500,000 increase.

The 2005 budget earmarks $4 million -- a $2.9 million increase -- for an electronic query system would let SSA officials check the records of financial institutions to determine a person's eligibility for Supplemental Security Income benefits.

The agency's e-Vital project to expedite the exchange of vital records between federal and state agencies would get $900,000 -- a $200,000 increase.

The budget also provides more money for improving the agency's financial accounting and management systems. For its new financial accounting system, SSA would get $15.4 million -- a $4.8 million increase. Another $20.1 million, up from $19.3 million, is included in the budget for two management systems: the Social Security Unified Measurement System and the Managerial Cost Accountability System.

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