Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Social Security online access for benefits -- more outages recently

Sometimes, when a beneficiary attempts to check account information on the SSA website, he or she will find, after entering the SSN and password, that a "service is not available" or that "access is forbidden." This seems to happen more often in the early morning or on weekends, perhaps during SSA system upgrades. SSA will give a message telling the visitor to call the 800 number if the error is unexpected. Often the SSA customer service operator does not know about the problem, as the CS person accesses your account through the mainframe, without the Internet user interface. (I don't know whether SSA replicates the database to a client server midtier for the GUI, or whether it has a direct connect, commonly used with DB2 databases on the mainframe). At certain times during the night, the Internet access is not available at all, according to the site, but recently there have been more morning outages. SSA appears to be enhancing security and controls to prevent misuse of information.

If I worked there, I would know the specifics, but their systems and cycles seem similar to financial systems that I have worked on.