Automated System Backfires On Social Security Administration
Following a lawsuit, the agency has agreed to pay $500 million in benefits that had been improperly withheld, and it will use human intermediaries to ensure accuracy.
The Social Security Administration has agreed to pay more than $500 million in benefits that had been withheld from 80,000 people since January 2007 and to eliminate overpayment balances for tens of thousands of others. The decision is the result of a class action lawsuit against the agency that boiled down to a poorly implemented database system.
The government is permitted by law to withhold benefits to fugitive felons, but the Social Security Administration had put into place an automated system that withheld payments and suspended benefits of anyone whose name matched those in a number of databases of outstanding warrants. That meant that just about anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant was denied benefits, including people who were unaware of warrants, were falsely accused or whose crimes were unproven, or had long-dormant warrants or minor infractions.
Many of the plaintiffs in the suit "never knew that criminal charges were pending against them, let alone that a warrant had been issued," said Gerald McIntyre, an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center, in a statement. In one case, the SSA cut benefits to California resident Rosa Martinez because of a 28-year-old drug warrant in Miami. In fact, Martinez had never been to Miami or used drugs.
The case, Martinez et al v. Astrue, began last October. The settlement approved Tuesday by U.S. District Court judge Claudia Wilken is preliminary and should be finalized next month.
Although there's room for appeal, the SSA stopped denying benefits in most cases of outstanding warrants at the beginning of April. At the time, it said it would provide back benefits and reinstatements to those who had been denied benefits due to outstanding warrants.
The situation wasn't the result of a technical glitch. Going forward, the SSA will use human intermediaries to ensure that matches are actually fugitive felons rather than relying entirely on the automated data-matching system, according to a spokeswoman at Munger, Tolles & Olson, one of the law firms involved in the case.
There's a big buzz surrounding Government 2.0 -- the revolution that's bringing the principles and value of the Web as a platform to the business of governing. Attend Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase and hear innovators show how this is really happening. At the Washington Convention Center, Sept. 8. Find out more and register./br
The Agile ArchiveWhen it comes to managing data, donít look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts, and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems.
2014 Analytics, BI, and Information Management SurveyITís tried for years to simplify data analytics and business intelligence efforts. Have visual analysis tools and Hadoop and NoSQL databases helped? Respondents to our 2014 InformationWeek Analytics, Business Intelligence, and Information Management Survey have a mixed outlook.
Top IT Trends to Watch in Financial ServicesIT pros at banks, investment houses, insurance companies, and other financial services organizations are focused on a range of issues, from peer-to-peer lending to cybersecurity to performance, agility, and compliance. It all matters.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of October 9, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."