Honors Program: Social Security Administration

Project Name: Electronic Disability (eDib)

In 2001, the Social Security Administration (SSA) made improving service to its disability claimants a priority as it faced a pending wave of disability claims from the aging of baby boomers. Its goal was to make the processing of disability claims paperless.

SSA began this initiative with the development and implementation of the Electronic Disability (eDib) project. EDib is designed to speed disability claims processing by reducing delays in creating, transporting and locating paper files. The new system aims to provide a secure, centralized Web-based repository of medical and other documents associated with disability claims. SSA and state agency employees process these claims using a customized desktop environment.

Case processing is performed at a computer terminal and case folder documentation is maintained and stored electronically. Certain paper documentation, such as medical evidence, is converted into a digital image format. This process provides SSA with the means to eliminate the generation and accumulation of paper records within the disability process.

The eDib system has 65,000 users, including more than 10,000 concurrent users. The users come from SSA's 1,477 offices and 135 hearing offices that hear appeals on disability claims. Each state and territory in the U.S. has its own office for determining disability claims for SSA, and these offices are linked into eDib, too.

Introductory Overview

SSA handles more than 2 million disability claims each year. Prior to eDib, the disability claims process was all done on paper. The process required an applicant to go to one of SSA's 1,477 field offices nationwide, fill out a paper application form and submit medical data in support of the claim. SSA would send a paper folder to the appropriate state office, which would arrange for a doctor to review it. The state would make a determination on the claim and then mail the folder back to the closest SSA field office. Applicants who were denied disability claims could file for a hearing at one of SSA's hearing offices. After the legal proceedings were done, the disability folder often would be several inches thick.

There were many things wrong with this process. It was extremely labor and paper-intensive, an enormous amount of time was lost in the process, and only the person who had the paper folder could do any work. There was significant time allocated to people finding, managing and mailing these paper folders.

In 2006, SSA completed the rollout of an $800 million all-digital system known as eDib to process disability claims at nearly 1,500 locations nationwide. EDib will save more than $1.3 billion when compared with the cost of creating, mailing and storing paper folders. The eDib system allows applicants to file claims over the Internet directly or with the help of SSA staff at one of its offices. The applicant's entire folder has been moved to an electronic file, and all information from doctors is scanned, faxed or e-mailed into that file. The state office employees who make determinations about disability claims and the hearing officers who handle appeals can access the file from a Web-based repository. No one ever has to handle paper as it relates to a claim.

The eDib system electronically collects, transfers, accesses and processes disability claims information. It has multiple components:

" Internet applications for filing claims.

" Electronic disability data collection system for entering data.

" Electronic folders that store electronic versions of all information, including files previously kept on paper, and make the data accessible to all users.

" Automated case processing and management system with an interface to the electronic folders.

EDib eliminates redundant data, provides quicker access to case information and allows faster response to medical evidence requests. SSA hopes to slash 100 days out of the average time it takes to process a disability claim -- a claim that often took as long as three years before the eDib deployment. In short, eDib improves overall efficiency of the disability claims process, which results in SSA being able to provide better customer service to the public.

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