When I worked as a Social Security Disability adjudicator for the Social Security Administration (SSA), duplicates were time consuming and highly frustrating. Hearing offices are production-paced environments that are drained of their time and energy when large files contain multiple duplicate files. Such duplicates increase processing times for both representatives of Social Security Disability and SSA personnel. Thus, in an effort to speed up the hearing process for millions of disability claimants, the Social Security Administration plans to purchase Duplicate Identification Process (DIP) software. This technology comes with a hefty price tag of more than $38 million.
DIP software works to reduce duplicate files, speed up computers, and increase memory storage. Various software programs promise 100% accuracy and emergency recovery systems, as well as accidental protection options. While some software works faster by searching for identical matches only, this may reduce the effectiveness of finding vague matches. This software improves processing times for the Social Security Administration, but it has raised concern for many Social Security Disability representatives.
SSD representatives voiced their concerns regarding weight of evidence possibly getting incorrectly applied due to duplicates being removed throughout the adjudication process. They want clarity on the definition of a duplicate. Weight of opinion given to a medical source considers how much the medical source knew about other evidence in the file. Therefore, if files are removed, the SSD adjudicator will be uncertain about what evidence was available to the medical source when he/she gave an opinion on the claimant's medical condition and limitations.
Moreover, Social Security Disability representatives are also concerned about the SSA’s definition of a duplicate. Is a duplicate an exact document or merely a document with the same information? SSD representatives need clarity on which definition the SSA plans to use. There would be less concern if representatives of Social Security Disability were assured that weight of evidence will be correctly applied and that there is a unified definition of what classifies as a duplicate.
In a letter addressed to the acting commissioner in 2018, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) proposed several solutions in conjunction with the DIP software to accurately and efficiently eliminate duplicate. These solutions included training DIP software contractors on SSA’s duplicate policy, then adjusting the software accordingly in order to eliminate errors. They also suggested trying a computer program before purchasing the costly software. Another recommendation the Social Security Disability proposed was to clarify the duplicate policy prior to buying the software. After, the clarification could be submitted to a computer programmer in order to implement a more cost-effective, yet just as efficient, as the DIP software. SSD representatives are sincerely trying to ensure the DIP software is effective and might possibly save taxpayers and the SSA a significant amount of money.
The SSA shows perseverance by continuing to explore ways to improve the adjudicatory process for disability claimants. I commend NOSSCR and Social Security Disability representatives for their efforts to stay engaged in the process, expressing concerns and providing solutions. Let’s continue to work together to reduce processing times by creating a more accurate and efficient process for all parties involved.