Thursday, June 09, 2011

Erroneous Payment Process and Eligibility

Here's a Federal Computer Weekly article on the administration's hopes and plans for, their portal to try to reduce erroneous payments and the more detailed Federal Times article.

It strikes me as a parallel to one of my better ideas, the FSA eligibility file.  As I've mentioned before, I visited ASCS county offices in the late 60's, spending enough time to observe the detailed work processes.  I remember being struck in one office by the clerk's (this was in the days before they were called "program assistants", much less "program technicians" as I believe today's nomenclature is) systematic process for issuing deficiency payments.  Essentially she had what Atul Gawande has written a book about: a checklist.

Move forward a number of years and we're trying to implement the payment process on the IBM System/36.  But there was a problem between assembling the necessary data to compute the payments and actually approving and printing the checks.  That's where the idea of the eligibility file/checklist came in: a place to record the various determinations which affected payment eligibility (i.e., controlled substance conviction, sod/swamp, etc.). And our Kansas City developers could create a common routine, so any FSA program area could inquire to see if the producer was eligible for that program.

As a digression, I've always regretted we didn't have the available people to build on the eligibility file to automate the source documents  It wouldn't have been that difficult and would have eliminated the gap between the county committee making a determination and getting it  recorded in the eligibility file.

Anyhow, back to the Verifypayment process--it seems to me the Feds could and should take the same approach: make a front-end process which tells the calling entity whether the subject is alive and eligible for the payment.  The website lists some of the major program areas they're focusing on, but the approach could be expanded so that state and local governments could access it, as well as OPM for deceased annuitants. 

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