In preparation for the June 2018 Plenary session, the Adjudication Committee and the Administration and Management Committee are considering, as a joint ad hoc committee, the possible benefits of electronic case management systems (eCMS) for federal agencies with an adjudicative function. Many agencies have taken advantage of advancements in computing technology and have developed electronic systems to manage their cases, thus reducing or eliminating their reliance on paper-based case files. However, many of the hundreds of hearings and appeals bodies across the federal government have yet to do so, and this project seeks to inform these agencies as they consider whether and how to implement electronic case management.
While there may be practical reasons for a federal adjudicative body to delay or limit its use of an eCMS, there are several benefits to be realized from a properly implemented eCMS, and thus agencies should fully and carefully consider the question of whether to implement an eCMS. For example, agencies implementing an eCMS may experience increased efficiency by office staff as multiple staff may simultaneously access and process a single electronic case file, and as they spend less time organizing, handling, transporting, and maintaining paper case files. At the same time, the public may be served more effectively by an eCMS, as elapsed processing times for cases may go down, and individuals filing claims, applying for benefits, or submitting evidence may be able to do so electronically, outside normal business hours.
In addition to the possible practical benefits of an eCMS, agencies implementing or expanding an eCMS may also find their compliance with various laws to be easier. For example, with an eCMS it may be easier for an agency to follow the directives of the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, which requires that agencies use electronic forms, electronic filing, and electronic signatures to conduct official business with the public, where practicable (Pub. Law No. 105-277, 44 U.S.C. § 3504 note). As well, an agency may find that an eCMS will assist in its compliance with the E-Government Act of 2002, which requires expanded use of Internet-based information technology to improve citizen access to information and services (Pub. Law No. 107-347, 116 Stat. 2899).
However, there are also potentially significant costs associated with the implementation or expansion of an eCMS, including, but not limited to, expenses and resources to design, develop, and train agency staff to use an eCMS, to provide adequate support to users, and to maintain the security of case records by making them accessible only to parties to a case and authorized agency staff. Because of the unique characteristics and needs of each agency, it may be beneficial for an agency to consider the experiences of other agencies’ successful eCMS implementations. The draft report thus provides case studies of six agencies that, after weighing the benefits and costs, each successfully implemented varying types of electronic case management.
The joint ad hoc committee will meet on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 1 pm. During Wednesday’s committee meeting, project consultants Felix Bajandas and Gerald Ray will present their findings related to the agency case studies and to electronic case management. The committee will then discuss a draft recommendation on eCMS systems.