Social Security Administration:

Subcommittee Questions Concerning Efforts to Automate the Disability Claims Process

GAO-03-1113R: Published: Sep 5, 2003. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 2003.

Additional Materials:


Linda D. Koontz
(202) 512-7487


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

This letter responds to a Congressional request on August 12, 2003 that we provide answers to questions relating to our July 24, 2003, testimony. In that testimony, we discussed the risks that the Social Security Administration (SSA) faces in its efforts to automate its disability claims process. The questions concerned money saved by implementing an electronic disability folder, SSA's development of a risk management plan, areas which SSA could improve, and difficulties in completing the project.

Our work to date on SSA's February 2003 cost-benefit analysis raises concerns that SSA may have underestimated its accelerated electronic disability (AeDib) system costs. Because SSA has not yet fully estimated these costs, we are unclear about their magnitude. A risk management plan provides guidance to project management teams and requires them to proactively identify facts and circumstances that could increase the probability of failing to meet project commitments, and take steps to prevent this from occurring. A comprehensive assessment of risks, which is completed according to the risk management plan, is the process of identifying risks with a high probability and cost of failure, and developing strategies for mitigating those risks. SSA has acknowledged our concerns relative to the areas of improvement we identified in our testimony, and has taken some action to address them. However, more work remains to fully address these issues. Software development is one of the riskiest areas of systems development. We have reported that SSA's software development efforts have been problematic and plagued with delays because SSA has not consistently followed sound practices in developing systems designed to automate its disability claims process; thus, it has experienced numerous software development problems over the past 11 years.

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