SSA's E-Vital program designed to stop payments to the dead

But overhauling, integrating federal, state Social Security systems is a might task, and OMB is keeping tight wraps on the project.

The musty smell of the Social Security records office may soon be replaced by the happy whirr of a supercomputer processing 2.5 million paper death certificates annually if a new web-based system is installed, reports Federal Computer Week.

The current process for submitting and processing death certificates is cumbersome and fraught with errors, and the Social Security Administration is busily creating a national system called E-Vital that would streamline the management of these records, better secure data and reduce errors.

There have been problems with overhauling such a antiquated, decentralized system, however. It will probably take years for SSA to complete an integrated national system of electronic death reporting.

“I don’t think they fully understood the practicality and the reality of how states implement the system,” said Garland Land, executive director of the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), which serves as the liaison between SSA and the states adopting the electronic system. “It indeed is a complex system to bring up.”

The inefficiency of the current system often results in delays in reporting deaths, and the agency frequently sends checks to dead people, who somehow manage to cash them. It is estimated that E-Vital will save hundreds of millions for federal and state government agencies.

There are some political concerns in project implementation, as E-Vital is part of the Office of Management and Budget's 23 e-government projects, but officials seem rather hush-hush about it's progress. Perhaps that's because Congress is not too fond of e-government. There was no mention of it in OMB annual report to Congress and the President's new 2007 proposed budget gives little information about it. Time will tell if the OMB and the SSA will be able to fit all the pieces together to streamline the system

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