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Social Security Management Associations

NCSSMA Testifies at Hearing on Modernizing SSA’s IT Infrastructure

Friday, July 15, 2016

 

The state of SSA’s system or IT infrastructure is a growing concern both in SSA and on Capitol Hill.  This concern led to a hearing on Thursday, July 14, 2016, before the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee.  

 

NCSSMA submitted written testimony to support the case for SSA’s much-needed modernization.  The actual hearing can be viewed online on your smart phone or home computer.   However, SSA’s computers in field offices and teleservice centers do not permit streaming of the hearing.  You can read my actual statement as presented before the Subcommittee below:

 

Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Becerra, and Members of the Subcommittee, my name is Rick Warsinskey, President of the National Council of Social Security Management Associations.  Our organization represents Field Office and Teleservice Center management nationwide.  I appreciate the opportunity to testify today.

 

My testimony will focus on why modernizing SSA’s IT infrastructure is essential from the perspective of over 60,000 employees and even more importantly, to the customers we serve.

 

Ask any SSA employee what their number one concern is and most will tell you it is the frustration they face getting their job done due to our slow system.

 

Daily, we wait as our computers crawl from one system’s window to another.  Around noon Eastern Time, our system reaches peak usage as almost all offices are open to serve the public.  Users watch the spinning wheel as programs and screens attempt to load.  Valuable time is lost which should be used to assist customers or address backlogs.  

 

Based on our recent survey, we believe this costs the agency upwards of $200 million per year in lost productivity.

 

We can demonstrate the degradation of SSA’s systems by analyzing data speed tests.  We surveyed our offices and found that these tests measured a median download speed of 2.87 Megabits per second and upload speed of .25 Megabits per second.  This speed is slower than what we measured last year.  In comparison, internet providers typically provide over 20 times this speed in your home.  

 

This degradation in data speed supports overwhelming feedback that our system is slowing down.  Our customer service and productivity are not only dependent on reliable systems access, but also on efficient programs.  SSA programs are becoming more complex and experiencing more malfunctions.

 

Our computers regularly become non-responsive, applications inaccessible, requiring a system reboot.  It can take up to 10 minutes to restart a computer to get back online.

 

We strongly support resources for modernizing SSA’s code and rewriting its programs.  SSA’s systems require new architecture.  

 

We understand modernizing SSA’s computer systems will require resources and time.  However, failure to address these critical concerns will delay the inevitable and costs will only increase.  In the meantime, severe disruptions of service will intensify as the system further degrades.

 

Our agency touches every American.  We maintain billions of records, paying about a trillion dollars a year.   Payments must be made accurately to ensure tax dollars are not wasted.  The current inefficient, outdated system cannot keep pace with the services SSA must deliver each day, costing us millions of dollars.

 

We acknowledge there are budget challenges to addressing SSA’s IT infrastructure needs, especially considering SSA’s increasing workloads, which include a record high hearings backlog of over 1.1 million cases waiting for a decision.  These cases represent vulnerable citizens facing the possibility of homelessness and severe health deterioration, often without the means to pay for care.

 

SSA’s program service centers have a near record high pending backlog of over 2.8 million cases, with an average age of four months.  These centers are responsible for processing workloads that usually require manual processing due to limitations in SSA’s software.

 

The American public deserves an SSA with adequate resources to support the agency and its systems.  We recognize budget dollars are limited.  However, we strongly believe dedicated and sustained resources for the modernization of SSA’s IT infrastructure are necessary to ensure the agency can run efficiently, saving tax dollars.  The longer we delay addressing these issues, the more service disruptions will occur, risking major system outages.  

 

Thank you again for this opportunity to testify, and I would welcome any questions you have.

 

Rick Warsinskey

NCSSMA President

 
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