Meet the Steve Jobs of the Social Security Administration – Plus Your Weekend Reads

Every year more than 45 million people visit a Social Security office. And as anyone who has visited the office knows, it can be plagued by long lines and tedious paperwork.

David Broomell, a longtime Social Security programmer and project manager, decided to make a change.

He created a program called VIP (Visitor Intake Process). It has been instrumental in creating new ways to make visits to Social Security offices more customer-friendly through innovative information technology solutions. For his work he has been made a finalist for the Partnership for Public Service' Service to America Medals. The Oscars for feds.

Broomell told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the idea for VIP came from his time as a frontline SSA worker.

Broomell helped transform an inefficient manual system used to check in and process visitors at Social Security offices nationwide by creating an automated intake process. He continually upgraded the system to include touch screen monitors, TV wait-time displays and real-time management of information.

Change From Experience

"I remember working in the office as a frontline employee as a claims representative for 15 years. I remember some of the days we would open the doors up to the public and we would have over 100 people already waiting in line. I knew a lot of those people would have to wait for hours. That's what drove this VIP program."

Boom to Expansion

"VIP started off slowly in our office in Minneapolis, then it expanded to area offices and then to regional offices and within a couple of years it expanded to all 13,000 offices. It is a huge times saver and employees and customers alike really appreciate it."

How Did You Get Buy-In?

"In this case it was a no brainer. You knew something had to be done. With any programming project there were different returns on investment, sometimes it can be monetary, minimize errors, time savings. In this case the ROI was a bit more subjective it was customer and employee satisfaction. This product mades life easier for both employees and customers."

How VIP Works

"There is the piece that the public sees. For example when you go to the SSA office, you went up to a self check-in, checked yourself in and let us know why you were there."

This system contains the following information about each visitor that the staff can use:

  • Visitor information, such as Social Security number, full name and date of birth, when such information is provided by the visitor;
  • Visitor information, such as the time the visitor entered and left the office, an assigned group number, number of interviews associated with the visit and remarks associated with the visit;
  • Appointment information, such as date and time of appointment, source of appointment and appointment unit number
  • Interview information, such as each occurrence, subject of interview, estimated waiting time, preferred language, type of translator, the number of the interview in the queue, interview disposition.

“Dave is a unique individual who can see a problem from the side of the beneficiary and the employees,” said Andrew Philipson, the director of systems and automation at the Social Security Administration in Chicago. “He is Social Security’s version of Steve Jobs. Year after year, he comes up with something new to help the agency and the public.”

One Piece of Advice 

"I do have a lot of passion for what I do. The only way you are going to be able to accomplish really essential things is if you really enjoy your work."

You can find all our Sammies interviews here.

Weekend Reads:

  • Hospitals prescribe Big Data to track doctors at work. Hospitals around the U.S. are trying to change how doctors practice by using data to monitor their progress toward goals, the WSJ’s Anna Wilde Matthews writes. Technology is making it easier to monitor doctors’ work as patients’ details are compiled electronically instead of on paper charts. Software makers are selling new tools to crunch the data. Software called Crimson offered by the Advisory Board Co. now includes information on more than a half-million doctors, up from fewer than 50,000 in 2009. At the same time, more physicians are going to work for hospital systems, which are under pressure to hit quality goals and cut costs. Many are striking deals with insurers that pull them away from traditional “fee-for-service” reimbursement, which pays for medical procedures individually.
  • 3 Ways To Be An Ideal Coworker
  • Agree to Disagree -- Strategic Controversy:Welcome the Dissent... Why is it that when you attend a strategy meeting, everyone who isn’t nodding off to sleep seems be nodding in agreement, at least on the basics? It's not because everyone really does agree; it's because companies don't know how to handle reasoned disagreement, says Aneel Karnani of the University of Michigan. It's rare for companies to value internal debate. One positive example he cites is a company that typically identifies five pressing issues and assigns two managers to each, telling them to explore different avenues. In the end, one approach is chosen for each problem. The key to opening the floor to dissent is to depersonalize the discussion. Argue about ideas, not people. That way you get robust, constructive debate that can help your company choose the right strategy. "The 'Let's all be team players' and 'Let's pull together' thinking can be a trap," Karnani says. "Strategy comes from internal debate, even dissent." I don't disagree.
  • NSA Cracked Kryptos Before the CIA. What Other Mysteries Has It Solved?

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