Faced with a rapidly expanding workload to review the nations
disability claims, staff turnover, and a technology transition, the
Social Security Administrations Office of Appellate Operations
(OAO) had to make big changes in its training approach. The radical
alterations it made to prepare 400 new legal analysts earned the
organization the 2011 W. Edwards Deming Award, which is presented
annually by the Graduate School USA to a federal government
organization for training initiatives that measurably improve
The winners cut the training program from eight to six weeks and
reduced the waiting time for thousands of Americans seeking
critical disability benefits.
OAO developed a fully interactive training course, integrating
legal, medical, and technical aspects of disability claims review,
said office executive Judge Gerald Ray.Continual feedback from the
trainees, changes to course materials, [the hiring of ] instructors
based on this feedback, consistent mentoring, and careful
monitoring of performance following training efforts resulted in a
substantially reduced training curve, with measurable improvements
in both quality and productivity.
Judge Micki Aronson
As Albert Einstein stated, We cannot solve problems by using the
same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Our training
was redesigned with this wisdom in mind. We developed an active,
lively, pragmatic, results-driven six-week course. Every type of
support system and hands on learning was put into place to ensure
that every employee could perform a very complex legal job from day
one on the job.
Judge Manh Nguyen
The interactive training for new analysts utilizes a holistic
approach, largely accomplished by having analysts apply concepts
taught to the facts of actual disability cases early in the
training process. Dynamic group discussions followed each case
study. This approach provides analysts practical experience in
evaluating actual cases during training.
Judge Chris Gavras
These forums tap into the collective knowledge of our experienced
analyst corps and promote ongoing learning and professional
development. Participants are assigned the same disability cases to
analyze, and small group discussions are facilitated among them as
to how they approached the assignments. The members of the groups
benefit from hearing different approaches from their colleagues in
The success of our innovative training was largely due to our
reliance on feedback. Throughout the course of training, we
solicited students opinions on the effectiveness of training,
including course materials, trainers, presentations, and exercises.
We restructured classes as needed. This flexible cooperative
approach was critical to our success as trainers and the students
success as learners.