Social Security Administration's ODAR/OAO Wins Prestigious W. Edwards Deming Award for Unprecedented Second Time

Government agency celebrates recognition for transformative excellence

May 14, 2015, 15:00 ET from Graduate School USA

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Employee development leaders at the US Social Security Administration's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Office of Appellate Operations (ODAR/OAO) in Washington, DC celebrated a high-water accomplishment as, for the second time, they bested applicants from nearly every branch of government to win the prestigious W. Edwards Deming Award, presented by Graduate School USA.

ODAR, one of the largest administrative judicial systems in the world, is responsible for SSA's final two levels of the administrative appeals process for disability claims: hearings conducted by Administrative Law Judges, or ALJs, and OAO's Appeals Council review.  In FY 2013, SSA decided nearly 800,000 requests for hearing and over 175,000 requests for Appeal Council review.  Facing a growing backlog of cases, ODAR needed to improve its processes, and the massive size of its workload demanded that the organization systematically and strategically approach the challenge.

"We understood that to achieve a meaningful and lasting improvement in the quality of our services," said Glenn Sklar, Deputy Commissioner, ODAR. "We must use a data-driven approach to get at the heart of the issues we face and produce meaningful and measurable results."

To reduce the case backlog, ODAR needed to improve both accuracy (thus reducing the number of remanded, or, "re-tried" cases) and the efficiency of case processing.  OAO's training techniques, which earned it its first W. Edwards Deming Award in 2011, combined with its unique vantage point at the end of SSA's administrative appeal process and its collection of disability data provided the perfect opportunity to create an innovative, data-driven, skills-based training program to focus on the critical thinking and analytical skills involved in applying agency policy.  The final training product was a 2-day train-the-trainer program and a 1-week advanced training program for ALJ's. To ensure that the training achieved the desired results, ODAR/OAO developed a detailed review of decisional quality, comparing the ALJs' pre-hearing decisions to post-training hearing decisions against 84 metrics. 

The results were eye-opening. After administering this training, ODAR saw a 5% or greater improvement in 35 of the 84 performance metrics of the ALJ's. They also saw a 2% - 4.99% improvement in 14 of the 84 metrics. Statistically speaking, this training had a significant impact on ALJ performance.

"Being recognized for our training efforts to improve the disability appeals process is validation of ODAR's hard work over the last several years," said Patricia Jonas, Executive Director, OAO. "But the real reward comes from knowing that it is helping us achieve our mission to provide people who seek disability benefits with a timely, fair, and accurate decision, while complying with all laws, regulations, and policies."

(About the W. Edwards Deming Award)
The W. Edwards Deming Award is presented annually in honor of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, in recognition of his 22-year association with Graduate School USA as a mathematics and statistics faculty member and curriculum chair. Considered the father of total quality management, Deming's theories on quality control sparked the renewal of Japan's economy following World War II and began the total quality movement as Dr. Deming himself trained thousands of people from all over the world in his theories and technologies of total quality management and statistical process control.

(About Graduate School USA)
Founded in 1921, Graduate School USA is an independent, educational, not-for-profit institution headquartered in the nation's capital with additional sites strategically located throughout the U.S. Leveraging its locations, network of public and corporate leaders, and state-of-the-art technologies, the School engages a diverse population of adult learners (primarily federal employees seeking continuing education) through both innovative and proven approaches to teaching and learning. The School provides a broad array of learning opportunities in formats accessible to adult learners everywhere through affordable training programs, continuing education courses, executive and leadership development programs, and credit offerings at the certificate and associate degree levels.

For more information, contact Kimberly Robinson.

Media Contact, ODAR/OAO:

Patricia Jonas


Media Contact, Graduate School USA:
Kimberly Robinson


SOURCE Graduate School USA