Nov 24, 2010

Acronym City: OIG On FIT And DWSI

From a report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG):
FIT [Findings Integrated Template] was released to all hearing offices in January 2006. FIT was designed to address quality issues in ALJ [Administrative Law Judge] decisions, notably legal error or poorly articulated rationale. With FIT, a DW [Decision Writer] does not have to cut and paste from old decisions to prepare the most common types of decisions. FIT provides more than 2,000 templates in 14 categories that cover the majority of decisional outcomes. Each template provides an analytical framework designed to ensure the relevant issues are addressed in a decision.

SSA implemented the DW Productivity Improvement initiative, which was subsequently renamed DWSI [Decision Writer Statistical Index], in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 to improve the timeliness of the draft decisions the ALJs receive from DWs and to assess DW productivity. ...

To determine the effectiveness of the FIT and DWSI initiatives, we reviewed decision-writing statistics and surveyed 171 DWs, 131 ALJs, and all 13 administrative appeals judges (AAJ) from the AC. We also interviewed Headquarters-based employees of SSA’s OGC [Social Security's Office of General Counsel].

While the average number of decisions drafted by DWs each day had increased slightly since FIT and DWSI were introduced, we were unable to determine whether the recommended decision-writing timeframes established by DWSI were met. ODAR did not measure decision-writing times in its Case Processing and Management System (CPMS)—ODAR’s management information system. In terms of quality, FIT helped provide uniformity and consistency in written decisions, and the percentage of remanded cases from the AC was lower after FIT and DWSI were introduced. Still, staff reported FIT did not cover all possible decision-writing scenarios, and some improvements were possible.

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