Friday, July 25, 2014

1361 Help Wanted: Nerdiness a Plus

Any kid with half a brain and half an hour can put up a website.  But the government of the United States can’t seem to.

We all know about healthcare.gov. They’re still cleaning up the mess that made.

Now comes an Associated Press story that says Social Security has spent $300-million on a new improved computer system that is not ready for prime time.

Your grandchildren can do the job for 1/100th of that.

The problem it’s to solve: disability claim fraud.  

We’re all so busy fighting over non-existent voter fraud that we’ve ignored this problem which doesn’t have a Republican pot of voter gold at the end of a pale and shabby rainbow.

We’re so taken with the sophisticated systems that collect our phone calls and website visits and cell phone locations and stop octogenarian air travelers to make sure they don’t have C4 explosives hidden in their shoes or Depends that we’ve stumbled into a world of false claims that cost us actual money.

We spend endless hours of public worrying about kids from Nicaragua or El Salvador pouring over our borders.  We send our Secretary of State on Missions Impossible around the world.  But we can’t spend more than a quarter of a billion dollars over a period of six years to make a working system to plug a hole in the dike of fake disability claims?

Question: has the cost of the new Social Security computer system been greater or less than the amount of actual fraud?

Maybe it has, maybe not. A congressional report says spending totaled $400-billion over the last several years.  How much of that is fraudulent?  No one knows.  Could be none. All the claims were approved by administrative law judges who hear only claims that were rejected previously.

It’s a congressional report so this may be a balloon filled with congressional hot air.

That, however didn’t stop Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) from sending a letter demanding action from the acting Social Security chief, Carolyn Colvin.

Colvin has been in office for ten minutes.  The computer problem has been in office since 2008.  That’s okay, you can blame the Obama administration anyway.

The crisis in computing isn’t limited to the federal government, though.

How many times in the last while or while and a half have you heard someone tell you from behind a screen “My computer is acting up today…” or “...slow loading.”

Other examples:

Pennsylvania state employees have been assured the treasurer’s new 30 million dollar computer system really really WILL get their checks done on time this time.  Six thousand didn’t during the most recent pay period.

A computer glitch in Osceola County, Florida posted the wrong grades on student report cards.

At the University of Central Florida in Orlando, incoming students assigned living space found that the computer had assigned them to stay in bathrooms and closets. (Some were hoping the closets were at least small and co-ed.)

The computer that prepares required car and truck stickers in Chicago went down long enough for the city to promise not to enforce the latest deadline to post them on your windshield.

A computer that runs the SkyTrain system shut the whole railroad down.

Shall I go on? Nah.

Oh, wait.  Breaking news. A computer glitch has shut down the US Passport and Visa operations.  

Grapeshot:  

-Back to Rep. Issa (R-CA) and a toast to those who remember when those initials, RCA, stood for an impressive corporation not a hang dog congressman.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2014

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