GAO More needed to cement success of SSA data exchange

The demand is growing for data that the Social Security Administration uses and provides to other federal and state agencies and an initiative aimed at meeting it could succeed, according to a Government Accountability Office report released today. The agency needs to continue to improve its ability to handle the data flow, according to GAO.

The agency faces three primary challenges.

First, it must retain the expertise needed to maintain its data exchange infrastructure and other resources.

Second, the agency needs to ensure the privacy and security of the data it provides to its data exchange partners.

And finally, the administration must establish effective management practices for implementing current and future data exchanges.

To that end the SSA’s Electronic Information Exchange Initiative could work, the GAO said, if it creates milestones for completing a report that would spell out what is needed for those data exchange improvements.

SSA also needs to create a comprehensive inventory of its existing data exchange systems withint the Iniatitive in order for it to be effective, GAO found. The milestones are needed to ensure the recommendations of the report are implemented in a timely way, The GAO said. And the inventory “is an important tool that could help the agency make credible and timely decisions to ensure effective management of its growing data exchange environment.”

SSA officials pointed out that the agency has developed a summary inventory of data exchanges in support of its initiative, but the GAO said that was inadequate. The SSA agreed with the GAO’s recommendations and said it had already identified actions to comply with them.

However, agency officials also said that the GAO report did not fully explain the SSA’s information and data exchange environment and challenges, in particular the challenges that affect each type of data exchange.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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