Social Security claims it is ready for Y2k : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This was on Reuters headlines on Yahoo. Here is the url.

Now does anyone believe that all of a sudden they are complete????

-- just me (, December 28, 1998


Here's my two-cents worth:

1. Terrific news!

2. It's no surprise -- after all, SSA was ALWAYS the organization furthest ahead of any other gov't agency.

3. Terrific news! (I'm trying to be a team player here)

4. I sure would like to see the detailed report of the "independent experts" to see how thorough their testing was. While it's nice to hear the good news from the President, it's also hard to forget that this is the man who told us that "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is." If SSA should blow up, he may begin telling us that "it depends on what the meaning of 'independent' is, and what the meaning of 'expert' is."

4. Terrific news! (I'm trying hard not to be gloom-and-doomer)

5. What about the 33 million lines of code that SSA discovered in its interfaces with state systems? Have those been fixed too? Well, presumably so; the CNN report said "100% compliant."

6. Terrific news!

7. Ummm... what happens if the lights are out and the phones aren't working?

8. Terrific news!

9. My mom is retired, and all she wants to know is if her monthly retirement payment will show up in her account, so that she can spend the money. SSA's computers are obviously a huge link in the long chain that extends from SSA headquarters to my Mom's bank account, but there are many other links. It would be interesting for someone to trace that chain of dependencies, in order to see where the various weak links are located.

10. Terrific news!

11. We'll be seeing lots of other good news like this -- after all, as my web-site essay tried to explain, it's deja vu all over again. At least 60% of the Y2K projects will be done on time, and possibly as high as 85% (because the percentage that would normally be canceled by frustrated customers probably cannot be canceled in a Y2K environment). The problem is the other 15% -- it's the old question of whether the glass is half full, or half empty. And the REALLY big problem is that legitimate success stories like SSA will be trumpeted loudly for everyone to hear, leading the average citizen to make the dangerous mistake of generalizing -- i.e., "because SSA made it, ALL the government systems will make it."

12. Terrific news.


-- Ed Yourdon (, December 28, 1998.

See the thread "Y2K-Clinton LIVE on C-SPAN-I 19981228Mon>10:10AM" for more details.

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 28, 1998.

"All of a sudden...?" SSA has consistently been at the top of Congressman Horn's list with an "A" grade. This is no surprise.

-- Buddy (DC) (, December 28, 1998.

Hasn't SSA been working on it for years? I'd believe they are compliant as anyone can be before it goes "live". But if it took all these years to get it, most of the corporations I've been reading about are toast. I cannot believe someone who started this summer will be ready in time. Not a corporation of any size, anyway. Makes my brain numb.

-- margie mason (, December 28, 1998.

What puzzles me is the SSA timeline:
* 1989 - Assessment procedures started
, * 1991 - Remediation work on 30 million lines of code begins
* 1997 - Sept - 86% complete per SSA figures (4.3 million lines fixed/year)
* 1997 - Oct - An additional 33 million lines of code found on sites in 42 states
* 1998 - They're "done" ??
How? New math?

-- Dan (, December 28, 1998.

Easy, Dan. Those 33 million additional lines of code weren't "mission critical" for SSA. The states were told they needed to handle repairing that code themselves. So SSA can say "our" system is ready. Technically, it may be... but that won't make much difference if the state-controlled code which feeds information to the SSA system isn't fixed too.

-- Nabi Davidson (, December 28, 1998.

# # # 19981228


IMO, correct about the redefinition of "mission critical" subsystems into the "non-mission critical" box. The rush in _that direction will become a stampede immediately!

However, the states don't have anything to do with SSA. You may be thinking about Welfare ( HHS ) system responsibilities shoved outside of their "Y2K Litter Box." ( Didn't GN have info posted about this earlier this year? )

Regards, Bob Mangus # # #

-- Robert Mangus (, December 28, 1998.

Social Security checks are cut and mailed out by the Federal Management Administration. The last I heard, FMA was far from being complaint. The "proof of the pudding" will occur next October 3 when all federal computer systems advance to 2000. As one who lives in HUD housing for low income seniors, I'm wondering if the 165+ residents in my complex will be turned out into the street if we cannot pay our rent? There are dozens such residences in my area. Will we be an "army" of bag ladies and men? Lord, help us!

-- Holly Allen (, December 28, 1998.

Holly, fyi...the Financial Management Service (Treasury Dept. agency) handles the SSA payments. FMS was declared compliant today along with the SSA.

-- Buddy (DC) (, December 28, 1998.

Hi Bob,

Here is the original article about the additional SSA code from Government Executive:


November 10, 1997

A Pothole in the Road to 2000

By Nancy Ferris

The Social Security Administration, poster child for good management of the year 2000 computer systems issue, got a black eye recently when the General Accounting Office reported that some SSA systems are at risk of failing after all.

SSA did an incomplete initial assessment of the work needed to ensure its systems would continue to operate after the turn of the century, GAO reported. Although SSA did a good job of evaluating the work needed on its own systems, it overlooked Disability Determination Services (DDS) systems operated by the 50 states. The states determine whether an applicant is eligible for disability benefits, then upload the client data to SSA's computers.

More than 33 million lines of software code are at work in those state computers. If the states do not get their systems fixed in time, "SSA could face major disruptions in its ability to process initial disability claims for millions of individuals throughout the country," GAO said in its report, "Social Security Administration: Significant Progress Made in Year 2000 Efforts, But Key Risks Remain."

SSA did not dispute GAO's findings but said the situation is under control. SSA's response said it was confident that the state DDS systems would be fixed by December 1998. That would give the agency and the states a year to test the repairs.

The year 2000 problem stems from the fact that for many years computers were programmed with two-digit notations, such as "97," to designate years. It was assumed that all such years began with "19." Unless the software is updated, the systems will not recognize the correct date for years beginning with "20."


I'd be interested in knowing how many states will have their DDS systems compliant in the next few days...

-- Nabi Davidson (, December 28, 1998.

See also the thread CNN and Y2k coverage this morning

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 28, 1998.

Well, as proof - notice that Clinton himself is trumpeting the SSA declaration of compliance - whereas he made only one other speech refering to Y2K for the entire year.

But no checks have been delivered yet in Fiscal Year 2000 (Oct, Nov, Dec 1999), nor have any automatic deposits yet made in Jan, Feb, Mar 2000. We shall they will happen correctly.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw GA) (, December 28, 1998.

You people are sick. I've been reading this forum thinking that you were trying to share information on how to be prepared for something which could be chaotic because it is nearly impossible to prevent. Now you finally get some good news and all you do is criticize those who have been optimistic and working hard to avoid problems. Reminds me of a saying: ANY fool can criticize, and MOST fools will! Cynics are the sorriest form of life there is. It is clear to me now that most of you are actually hoping for disaster, so that you can lock yourselves inside with your bags of rice and bottles of water and watch your neighbors suffer. It is clear from Ed's opinions that if you are not doing anything to help solve the problem, the best way to justify your apathy is to attack those who ARE trying. You really should listen to yourselves, and be ashamed.

-- (!@!.COM), December 28, 1998.

Go away Thomas. Go back to bothering Gary North. You're a bore.

-- (1@2.3), December 28, 1998.

NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS discussed Y2K tonight.

After borrowing footage from an earlier Y2K report (Featuring Ed Yourdon and Ed Yardeni) at jan-june98/y2000_6-11.html...

The main topic for tonight was the Social Security system. The long and mostly positive transcript can be found at:

Ending comments:

KENNETH APFEL: Well, there's a lot of work that has to be done. There's - the president said to us sometime ago for each federal agency let's get on with us, let's make this a priority for the American public. There's been a lot of work throughout the federal levels, at the state and local, government level, and now with the private sector, and different industries, the banking industry, the electronics industry, the telecommunications industry.

We're going to have some problems out there. There's no doubt. Everything will not be fixed by the year 2000. I think the main activities are going to be resolved. I know that the commitments that we've made within Social Security have made it resolved. We're seeing that now throughout many other parts of the government and also through other industrial sectors. ...

Interesting Monday. -- Diane

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 28, 1998.

(Warning -- Long Post But Worth It)

Front Page -- L.A. Times Tuesday, December 29, 1998

Clinton Says Social Security Is Y2K Ready By JUBE SHIVER Jr., Times Staff Writer While President claims Social Security system is compliant, experts warn it is premature to declare victory over so-called Year 2000 computer bug. ...

Complete article with by lines at:

WASHINGTON--President Clinton said Monday that officials have fixed a computer glitch that they once feared would disrupt the processing of millions of Social Security benefits after next year.

"The Social Security system is now 100% compliant with our standards and safeguards for the year 2000," Clinton said. "The system works. It is secure. And therefore, older Americans can feel more secure." But some experts warned on Monday that it would be premature for the federal government to declare victory over the so-called Year 2000 computer bug, which stems from a programming shortcut that leaves many computers unable to distinguish between the year 2000 and the year 1900. That misinterpretation could cause the computers either to shut down or malfunction. Clinton spotlighted the one federal agency that has aggressively tried to attack the Y2K bug, they said, while others are still lagging. Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Long Beach), who chairs the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on government management, information and technology, said Monday, for instance, that the federal departments of Energy, Defense, Transportation, State and Health and Human Services, "are all failing in their Y2K efforts. The administration must focus on these problem agencies." And despite the president's assurances, some experts expressed concern about the year 2000 readiness of the Social Security Administration. They said that, while the agency's own computers may be in order, it depends on computers outside its control to help issue $1 trillion in annual payments to 48 million Social Security beneficiaries. "The Social Security Administration deserves tremendous credit for being the leading government agency for dealing with the year 2000, but the [agency] runs a complex program that depends on many other [outside] resources for its reliability," said Dennis G. Grabow, chief executive officer of the Millennium Investment Corp., a private Chicago-based company called that has focused public attention on the Year 2000 computer problem. "Americans need to understand this is not some issue that can be easily changed with one or two fixes," Grabow added. "This is a long- range problem that will affect our government for years to come." Clinton has pushed agencies that have not solved their Year 2000 computer problems "because we just have a little more than a year to get the job done."

Two Major Agencies Deemed Compliant Since the Small Business Administration became the first agency to complete its Year 2000 work, 61% of all critical federal agencies have been certified as year 2000 compliant, officials said Monday. Among major agencies, only computer systems at the Social Security Administration and the SBA were deemed 100% compliant for the year 2000. A spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service said that the agency is on track to achieve Year 2000 compliance with its critical computers by next month. In the past, however, the agency has been criticized for lagging far behind others in updating its computer system. The weak links in the computer chain could undo the progress at agencies whose computers have been given a clean bill of health.

According to the General Accounting Office, for instance, Social Security could be undermined by independent contractors that share benefits data with the agency as well as the Treasury Department, which actually issues the monthly checks. In a report issued last May, the GAO urged Social Security to strengthen its "monitoring and oversight" of 54 state disability services contractors who help determine the eligibility of applicants seeking benefits because of medical disabilities. The GAO also said that the exchange of financial data with key government partners, such as the Treasury Department, poses a "major risk" to the Social Security program. Treasury plays a key role in issuing payments to beneficiaries of such government programs as Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance. However, the department's progress in preparing its computers to handle dates correctly after Dec. 31, 1999, has been mixed. The Treasury's Office of Thrift Supervision is credited with making good progress in updating its computer systems and in enforcing compliance among the financial institutions it regulates.

Treasury Lags Behind in Y2K Readiness By contrast, Treasury's Financial Management System, which handles the payment of Social Security checks, among other activities, had been widely seen as behind schedule. As recently as last week, Deputy Secretary of Labor Kitty Higgins expressed misgivings about the system's Year 2000 readiness, telling reporters that "Treasury has to be Y2K compliant so states" can have full assurance that the government will process claims for unemployment insurance in a timely fashion. Jack Gibbons, a spokesman for the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, acknowledged that Treasury has lagged behind the Social Security Administration in readying its computers for the year 2000. But, he said, independent auditors certified two weeks ago that Treasury's Financial Management System is Year 2000 compliant. "They have been cutting checks since October to test the system, and we have been assured that everything works," said Gibbons. Along with the Defense Department and the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security has long been viewed by many experts as a linchpin in the administration's efforts to prepare for the year 2000. In the last year alone, private contractors reviewing Social Security's computer systems pored over more than 33 million lines of software code to ferret out potential Year 2000 computer problems. It took 2,800 workers, including 700 computer programmers, to finish the task. And the administration has pushed the agency hard to avoid the potential political and fiscal embarrassment that would arise from a major problem in issuing Social Security checks.

Several States Promise Reforms But other government agencies, including the IRS, Defense Department and many states that administer federal benefits programs, are far behind the Social Security Administration. Last month, for instance, the Labor Department sent letters to the District of Columbia and seven states warning them that federal unemployment insurance benefits could be disrupted as early as next month if the states do not develop contingency plans to process claims and bring their computer operations up to date. Since the letters went out, officials said that several of the states have promised reforms. But Montana, Delaware and New Hampshire said they would not be Y2K ready until at least the second half of next year, and other states said that they might have to manually process unemployment insurance claims.


Where selected government agencies stand in enabling their most critical computer systems to handle the year-2000 (Y2K) date change: (actual percentage in parentheses)

100% READY

Social Security Administration Small Business Administration

80%-90% READY

EPA (90%) General Services Administration (88%) Federal Emergency Management Agency (85%) Interior Department (82%) Commerce Department (80%)


Defense (77%) NASA (76%) Housing and Urban Affairs (72%) Labor (67%) Health and Human Services (49%)

Source: Office of Management and Budget report issued Dec. 8 (Social Security updated Monday); compiled by TRICIA FORD/Los Angeles Times

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 29, 1998.

SSA.... 10 years and 700 programmers according to CBS news last night. And that puke Clinton acting like he deserves the credit. Go away bad dream.

Congrats to those programmers who pulled it off! I hope it's true.

-- Anti-Chainsaw (, December 29, 1998.

Gotta agree with !@!. I said the same thing a month ago. A huge corporation (or whatever) says 'we're compliant' and a lot of folks here say 'oh yeah?!?'. What about power? What about supplies? What about this? what about that? Get's a little sickening after a while. Each company/corp/business can only be responsible for themselves. If they wanna be around a year and a half from now (and I think most all of them do) they will most certainly get their systems in order. How could anyone think otherwise? How could you possibly think that a company (one of ANY importance) would allow itself to fail?? Everyone knows what the problem is and what needs to be done to fix it. And folks, I'm a Y2K project manager for a large company that's been at this for several years now. Been in the middle of it and completely understand how complex it is. Spoken with many, MANY other companies from all over the country and I have yet to hear 'we ain't gonna make it' (and yes, I have several testimonies in writing from companies that are Y2K ready, over 200 in fact - financial and software mainly). It's obvious to me the Y2K problem is the highest priority of every company I deal with.

I've seen the quote 'millions will die' on this forum more than once. Millions will die??!! Are you kidding me?? Things work a little differently in real life than they do Hollywood. When a corp says their ready, it's time for applause and nothing else. Deano

-- deano (, December 29, 1998.

Thanks, deano. I'm glad I can quit worrying about Y2K now that I know it's just a bunch of hype from doom-and-gloomers who don't know what they're talking about. You have done me a great service, sir. Thank you!

-- WHEW! (, December 29, 1998.

My pleasure! Go play some golf or go fishing. GET A LIFE (basically).


-- deano (deano@luvthe, December 30, 1998.

Fed Agencies Among Serious Stragglers in Y2K Preparations

December 29, 1998
Web posted at: 10:46 p.m. EST (0346 GMT)
(CNN) -- With roughly a year to go until "Y2K Day," opinions on the extent of the Year 2000 computer problem are divided.

Some await the apocalypse; others think the problem will be merely annoying. In any case, the federal government's own outlook inspires little confidence.

Should the most dire predictions about the problems come true, the new millennium will pack quite a wallop: phones and lights won't work, automatic tellers won't give cash, airports will close and paychecks won't show up in the mail.

Is the one year remaining enough time to prevent Y2K problems?
Joel Willemssen of the U.S. General Accounting Office doesn't sugarcoat his answer. "All the government agencies will not be done on time. There will be some failures," he says.

"Right now as a country we do not know where we stand on water, power and telecommunications. If you don't have water, power or telecom, you can't get the job done," he says.

'This involves ... everyone'
"This involves not just federal agencies, but anyone who depends upon a computer, which is everyone, directly or indirectly," President Bill Clinton cautioned on December 28.

In his speech. Clinton praised the Y2K compliance of the Social Security Administration. Senior citizens will receive their checks, he promised.

But the president may need to take a hard look at what other federal agencies and major businesses have and haven't accomplished to date. Money could be a problem. U.S. banks have spent $8 billion on Y2K readiness and say all accounts will be safe. But the Federal Reserve has ordered $50 billion in new currency in case there's a run on the banks anyway.

Air travel? The Federal Aviation Administration concedes it remains at least three months behind where it should be on Y2K preparedness. Defense? The Pentagon received a "D-minus" in the last congressional Y2K report card, but plans war games in June 1999 to demonstrate its preparedness.

The Department of Energy got an "F" in the same report, placing in doubt what it can do in 1999 to ensure electrical power is available on January 1, 2000.

And the Internal Revenue Service is so far behind that the GAO says U.S. citizens could receive erroneous tax bills in 2000 or, on a brighter note, refund checks they aren't entitled to.

Telephones? AT&T alone says it has 3,000 software programs to inspect and fix.

Suddenly, a year doesn't seem like much time at all.

"And those who have not yet undertaken the task need to get on it and get on it now," Clinton says.

Otherwise, the Y2K bug could crash the party of the millennium.
xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxx

-- Leska (, December 30, 1998.

Here are the links for two articles suggesting the Social Security news is not as good as it sounds: "Clinton, experts disagree on progress of Y2K glitch repair" 9981229/tc/year_2000_challenge_2.html "Experts Still Worry About Y2K Fix"

-- Kevin (, December 30, 1998.

Leska, did you actually SEE the transcript you posted on CNN? I liked to choke on my bourbon & 7. It was pretty impactful. I wish they'd replay that every day.

I'm going to run over and see if the CNN Y2K message board is heating up any after that.

-- Lisa (hi@there.hey), December 30, 1998.

Thanks, Kevin.

That AP story "Experts Still Worry About Y2K Fix" features our fearless leader ... Ed "the time bomb" Yourdon. 19981229/tc/year_2000_challenge_2.html

Tuesday December 29 8:02 AM ET

Experts Still Worry About Y2K Fix

By WILL LESTER Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Clinton's announcement that Social Security payments will not be hindered by computer glitches related to the year 2000 was hailed by some computer experts, but they're more concerned about systems that aren't prepared.

``It's good news, but certainly expected given that Social Security was out front all along,'' said Ed Yourdon, a New York City computer consultant and author of ``Time Bomb 2000,'' a book about the Year 2000 computer problem, known as Y2K. ``The danger is that people might generalize that things are going to be OK. Most of us in the computer field think that 75 percent of the government agencies and businesses will make it.''

Yourdon said it was ``a question of whether you look at the glass as half-full or half-empty. What's the effect of the 25 percent that's not done?''

Jack Gribben, spokesman for the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said White House officials focused on the computer problem are ``most concerned about organizations in government and business where the head of the organization does not have Y2K as one of their top priorities.''

The Y2K problem arose when programmers of early computers represented each year by its last two digits rather than by all four - for example, 1972 as 72 - mostly to save computer memory that was vastly more expensive at the time.

Trouble begins when computers try to add or subtract dates using that two-digit format and the world approaches the year 2000, or 00. The larger, older mainframe computers still used by government and big corporations for many vital functions are particularly vulnerable.

``Unless organizations that have done little on Y2K mount aggressive efforts over the next year, we could face disruptions that are local in nature if there are small businesses that aren't paying attention,'' Gribben said. ``If your mayor or county manager isn't paying a lot of attention, there could be problems. Local governments provide a lot of services to people.''

The president assured Americans on Monday that Social Security will be paid without delay in the new millennium because government computers are free of programming bugs many expect at the start of 2000.

``The millennium bug will not delay the payment of Social Security checks by a single day,'' Clinton said in a White House ceremony.

``It's a good showing for Social Security,'' said Tim Wilson, publisher of Y2K News Magazine in Crossville, Tenn. He said about two dozen other departments and agencies are still working on the problem, and congressional watchdogs have said one-third of them will not be ready.

``Health and Human Services is the one that worries us the most,'' Wilson said, noting that agency delivers Medicare, Medicaid and welfare payments through the states, which have Y2K problems of their own.

Actually, the Social Security Administration had its system ready in September. The Treasury Department bureau that disburses 600 million Social Security payments each year - the Financial Management Service - got its system ready within the last couple of weeks, federal officials said.

That bureau also delivers checks for the Internal Revenue Service, Veterans Affairs and the Railroad Retirement Board. Delivery systems for those agencies are close to being prepared but have not been independently tested, said bureau spokeswoman Alvina McHale.

Government officials said it cost just over $43 million to get the Social Security delivery system ready for 2000.

Rep. Steve Horn, a California Republican whose House subcommittee monitors Y2K preparations, praised the Social Security Administration's compliance, but noted the agency had 10 years to prepare.

``What about the departments and agencies that have started their remediation efforts only within the last few years?'' Horn asked. ``The administration must focus on these problem agencies. It must also look at what state and local governments are doing to address the problem.''

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 30, 1998.

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