DSS document backlog gone, commissioner reports

The state contractor scanning applications and other documents for the state Department of Social Services has eliminated its backlog, Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby said Friday.

Speaking at a meeting of the council that oversees Medicaid, Bremby also took the blame for some of the problems in the scanning process, saying that his decision to allow documents to be submitted by fax created an untenable situation for the state contractor handling the process.
The scanning issues led to a shaky start for a major piece of DSS’ effort to modernize how it handles clients’ information.
By contract, Manchester-based Scan-Optics is supposed to scan DSS applications and client documents within 24 hours. But the volume of paperwork and difficulties properly routing some documents led to delays in recent weeks. That meant that DSS workers weren’t able to process client cases or access information if a client called shortly after submitting it. As a preventive measure, DSS decided last month to extend benefits to more than 15,500 households to avoid having them get cut off because their renewal forms were stuck in the backlog.
Bremby said Friday that Scan-Optics had quadrupled its staff and eliminated the backlog. “They are current as of today,” he said.
Part of the problem, the commissioner said, was faxed documents, which in some cases proved especially time-consuming to scan. Some came in in poor quality and some arrived out of order, requiring workers to resort the pages before scanning them. 
Bremby said that he’d been asked at a July Medicaid council meeting whether people would be allowed to fax documents to the scanning center. He was stumped, but after consulting with a colleague, said yes. Instead, Bremby said Friday, he should have said he didn’t know.
“We opened the gates to flood our vendor at Scan-Optics with faxes,” he said, adding that it put the company in an untenable position. 
Last month, DSS stopped letting people fax documents to Scan-Optics, except in cases involving newborns. 
Bremby said the bottleneck in scanning caused a huge volume of calls to the DSS phone system. The average wait time to reach a worker is approaching 20 minutes, he said, although some clients and advocates say they routinely wait far longer.
Bremby noted that the new system has been in place less than 90 days. Three months ago, he added, people often said they could never get through to a worker.
“We’re not where we’re going to be, but we’re working on it,” he said.