Remotely proofing applicants for public assistance
Michigan’s Department of Human Services will use a $1.3 million NSTIC grant to pilot an automated initiative to help clients establish their identity and avoid concerns related to cyber fraud.
Michigan is among the top states for identity theft complaints, and today half of the agency’s applications for benefits are made online. “We just want to ensure that a client is who he or she says they are,” says Dave Akerly, acting director of communications for the Department of Human Services.
The new initiative will focus on eliminating the manual review of applications, giving clients a fast and accurate way to prove their identity. “We want there to be a front-end component that really does make it clear to the person who’s applying – the person who is putting forth sometimes intimate personal details that have to be cleared through federal regulations, statute and state law – that they are who they say they are,” Akerly says.
The human services department will pilot the initiative in conjunction with a system called Bridges. “It does a lot of the program work by ensuring that notices are properly sent and benefits are correctly loaded,” Akerly says. “This will help us institute a protocol at the front end to help vet an identity. What we want to avoid is a situation where folks have to come in and get a manual review of their application. It slows down the process, and the slower that goes, the slower benefits get out to people who are truly in need.”
The human services department is drafting a waiver to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use automatic online software to screen for identity theft. The team that will help implement the pilot includes LexisNexis, Deloitte and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.
“This will be a team effort through Bridges to identify and implement the best way to go forward with this,” Akerly says. “In early 2014, I anticipate that we’ll be making some real headway.”
Within a few years, Akerly expects clients will be able to receive their application decision in a very efficient manner online without having to show up in person and wait. “Hopefully, the literally millions of people that we serve who truly are in need, will think the process is working for them and is being conducted in an efficient and honest manner, and that their identity is safe,” Akerly says. “That’s our number one goal.”
The Michigan Department of Human Services plans to integrate the auto-verification process with the help of LexisNexis and the other partners early next year following successful testing of the new solution.