GAO: SSA is rushing disability claims system rollout

The Social Security Administration has been implementing a nationwide electronic disability claims system, but it still needs to fully test the system before deploying it, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report released last week.

The GAO report states that SSA is proceeding with its initiative and plans to complete it this month. But so far, the agency has failed to address a number of operational issues. The system still needs considerable work before it can automatically process all initial disability claims, according to the report.

According to a number of state officials, “processing claims electronically generally took longer and consumed more resources than the previous method,” the report states.

“Thorough testing and risk mitigation strategies could have helped limit problems with the system’s operation and other circumstances that could impede the project’s success,” the report also states.

SSA officials disagreed with GAO’s recommendations for resolving problems with the system, but they said the agency would “implement plans for ensuring the continuity of disability claims processing.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said SSA took a bold step by not doing end-to-end testing of the new system, but it may work.

However, he added, “unless SSA remains diligent, it runs the risk of a costly and time-consuming process of fixing problems that could have been avoided in the first place had it conducted end-to-end testing.”

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