SSA seen going 90 percent electronic

Advisory group recommends birth-to-death SSA file for each American

The Social Security Administration has little choice but to move toward a goal of processing 90 percent of all transactions electronically in the coming decades, according to a new report adopted by an SSA advisory panel.

“Given the projected workload increases due to the number of individuals retiring over the next two decades, electronic self-service appears to be the only solution that will enable SSA to process future transaction volumes,” states the report adopted by the SSA Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel.

The “Re-imagining Social Security” report was published recently on the panel’s website after being adopted by the group at a meeting in May.


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In practical terms, the full picture of SSA's electronic processing would mean that hospitals would create an electronic medical record for each birth and communicate data about those births to SSA, which would set up a password-protected electronic account for each child.

Thereafter, as adults, people could log into their personal SSA account to verify information for jobs, name changes, widowhood, disability and retirement. Furthermore, SSA would communicate electronically with Medicare and with private doctors and hospitals to obtain patients' medical information if needed for a disability or benefits claim.

The proposed birth-to-death electronic system described in the report does not exist. The envisioned medical data-sharing network is based on the Health and Human Services Department’s Nationwide Health Information Network, and the job-verification system is based on the Homeland Security Department’s E-Verify, neither of which is widely used. More spending would be needed to create the necessary systems and networks, the report states.

The report also recommends that SSA make its electronic data available on mobile platforms, including cell phones, to facilitate future interactions with the agency.

“The most common tools people will use to access the Internet in the future will be smart phones and mobile devices,” the report states. “Therefore, in designing online applications, SSA should position themselves to support mobile devices and be prepared to convert Internet applications to these platforms while simultaneously maintaining the current platforms for the PC.”

To serve the small percentage of people with complex transactions or those who are unable or prefer not to use newer technologies, SSA should look into creating joint service centers with other federal agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, the report states.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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