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An employee of the "Food Stamp" office in Texas .... writing about the system that is crumbling from the inside and the outside, all in the name of Politics. **I'm writing this as a private citizen of the State of Texas--I do not claim to represent the opinions of HHSC**
THIS WAS IN COMMENTS:Even though the State is sending every person they can to TIERS training now that it has opened up again, and even though they have alsomst 500,000 folks back doored into their system even though the feds said no more roll out, the new system IS NOT guaranteed. This was from the Houston Chronicle the other day. My comments have been inserted:Auditor: Pricey state computer system flawed
Agency defends health, welfare unit as reliableBy CLAY ROBISON
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin BureauAUSTIN A computer system, which has cost Texas taxpayers more than $350 million over the past eight years, remains plagued with problems and isn't ready to handle statewide processing of health and welfare benefits, the state auditor's office said Thursday.(We that are there already knew this)The Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System, or TIERS, was established by the Legislature in 1999 to improve access to benefits and services.It now serves 430,000 welfare, food stamps and Medicaid clients each month, mostly in Travis, Hays and Williamson counties in Central Texas.(The numbers were bolstered by the Womens Health Program, Foster Care kids and Old cases from all over the state being transferred to the TIERS system, without federal approval)Auditors didn't find any significant errors in how eligibility was determined and benefits were calculated in the cases they studied.(Significant? What determines a significant error?)But, they concluded, the Health and Human Services Commission "will need significant additional processing capacity and storage to support a statewide rollout of TIERS," including the addition of the Children's Health Insurance Program, scheduled for March.(And rumor has it that SSI cases handled through state office are being switched to TIERS starting in Jnurary)CHIP will add about 325,000 active and 650,000 inactive clients to the system, the report said.(Why are they adding inactive clients?)It also criticized a "poor architectural design" that made the computer system cumbersome to use and hindered TIERS' ability to process and maintain the integrity of data. It also said DHS should consider streamlining its application process for public assistance, including the adoption of a shorter application form.(Wouldn't this cause "significant" errors?)- HHSC Employee's note: No, the longer application is so cumbersome and confusing, that clients who use it leave off important information all the time. A shorter app (like the one we had- what, 4 pages?) that captured the most important information: Who is in the household, where they live, what income they have, and what their expenses are- would be MUCH better. A good worker doesn't need an application asking what the last grade completed in school was, what elementary school their kids go to, etc. A good worker out there will ask those questions anyway.DHS officials said they stood by the system and were happy with the audit's finding that, in the cases studied, TIERS had accurately processed welfare, Medicaid and food stamp claims.They said some problems cited in the report already were being addressed.Auditors said they tested a sample of 60 TIERS clients who received benefits between July 20 and Aug. 17.They also reviewed client samples initially tested by DHS and KPMG, a private audit firm."We're pleased that the state auditor confirmed that TIERS works," said Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins.(Apparently Al didn't read the first paragraph in the story.)"The audit also reaffirmed a decision we made in 2004 to change the TIERS database design. We've completed that redesign, and we're continuing to implement other improvements recommended by the state auditor and our technology team."(As per a TSEU broadcast "...As of September 20, 2007, there were 1373 outstanding "service requests," which are documented requests for changes in the system to ensure its accuracy or functionality. Only 155 of these have been analyzed, and it will cost approximately $27 million and take over 200,000 hours to correct them.
42 versions of TIERS have been released since January, but HHSC is not independently testing the functionality of the system. Instead, HHSC is depending the contractor's reported testing results."
That is a whole lot of changes in two months, not real reaffirming.)Hawkins said TIERS will be an important part of the state's transition to a new system that will allow Texans to apply for services in person, over the phone or Internet or by mail. He said TIERS can be adapted to meet those changes.(I thought TIERS was the new system?)The transition, so far, has been rocky. Earlier this year, the state canceled a contract with Texas Access Alliance, a group of contractors headed by Accenture, which had been hired in 2005 to operate call centers and process applications for CHIP.The cancellation was prompted by backlogs and errors in processing applications.(I personally know workers that are interviewing clients whose applications are past the 30 day time frame for foodstamp benefits. The case is considered to be delinquent before the client is even interviewed.)HHSCEmployee: Not only are the cases that are interviewed in TIERS more than 30 days old, in some cases they are 40-60 DAYS OLD.According to the new audit, the TIERS application/database was down for more than 27 business hours in July during the contract transition period. DHS said the down time was unusual and had been reduced to only 19 minutes in September.(19 minutes on what day?)The auditor estimated that TIERS will need at least 230 additional computer processors and an unknown amount of additional storage for a statewide rollout of the system.(Let's guess, a processor costs, say, 2000.00. You do the math.)DHS spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said more than $2 million already has been budgeted for additional hardware. She said the addition of CHIP to the system will represent a major step in taking the system statewide.(A major addition to the numbers race.)But she said she didn't know when the process will be completed because federal approval will be required for some programs.(Has this stopped them before?)She said TIERS already serves about 12 percent of the state's health and human services caseload.(What percent of of those are actually in the rollout areas?)"It already has more cases than many other states have total," she said.According to the audit, DHS' Office of Inspector General hasn't investigated potential criminal cases involving fraudulent claims or payments on the TIERS system since November 2004 or civil overpayment cases since April 2005.(This is because there isn't any way for them to investigate. It was never set up so that they could be refferred or investigated through TIERS.)DHS said the inspector general began conducting fraud investigations on TIERS cases last month and on civil overpayments in September.(In name only. Word has it that they still can't investigate the cases in TIERS.)The auditor recommended that DHS contract with the state Department of Information Services to provide guidance on the appropriate design and architecture for TIERS. The agency said it expects to complete an agreement with the information services agency next month.(Ummm, the system is already desinged, right? That's were all that money went four or five years ago?)The audit noted that DHS' application for public assistance was 11 pages long, based on state and federal requirements. Some other states, it said, have shorter, more streamlined applications.(Operative phrase - "based on state and federal requirements."The report included the draft of a suggested, four-page enrollment form. But the auditor noted that, unless supplemented with additional information, the suggested application would require DHS to obtain "at least 25 waivers from federal regulations."