SSA has plans for fiscal 2006 funds

The Social Security Administration will begin several information technology projects in fiscal 2006, including a phased-in conversion to voice-over-IP telephony systems at its headquarters and 1,300 field offices. Officials will also begin modifying the agency's information systems to handle mandatory changes related to Medicares new prescription drug benefits.

Kelly Croft, assistant deputy commissioner for systems at SSA, said the president's $958 million IT budget request for fiscal 2006 would provide funding for both new projects and for continuing work on automating disability claims processing, a major IT project in 2005. "We're set up solidly for 2006," Croft said.

The budget request released this week contains $50.2 million for the agency's Accelerated Electronic Disability System, and $1.3 million for digital audio systems to improve the efficiency of administrative appeals hearings. "Anything related to disability and digital audio are fully funded in this budget," Croft said. The 2006 budget request is $72 million less than SSA's current IT budget.

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which authorizes new prescription drug benefits, will require SSA officials to spend $61.3 million in fiscal 2006 on hardware and software to deal with the new benefits' impact on SSA's information systems, Croft said.

In other budget highlights, the largest line item is $398.8 million for a spending category labeled "IT infrastructure," which includes networks and computers to support SSA's income support programs. For disaster recovery and business continuity, the budget calls for spending $25.6 million.

It also earmarks $5 million for enterprise architecture planning and $500,000 for a governmentwide e-Authentication initiative to create standards and policies for secure online access to federal agency applications.

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