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DSS Office, Employees Honored by Federal Agency

Louisiana's Disability Determinations Service (DDS), a part of the Department of Children & Family Services (DSS), and four of its employees have earned high honors from the Social Security Administration for outstanding work on behalf of the state's disabled population.

DDS will receive the Social Security Administration's (SSA) highest award, the Commissioner's Citation, at a ceremony this month. The SSA will recognize DDS' speed and accuracy in processing disability claims filed through the SSA. The agency has a 96 percent accuracy rate and beats the average national processing time (81 days) by nearly two weeks.

"Every DDS employee is dedicated to ensuring that individuals with disabilities have the resources, support and tools they need to thrive and be self sufficient," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "The SSA's award demonstrates the commitment of the employees in Louisiana DDS to this mission."

An additional Commissioner's Citation will go to Ellen Langford, an Administrative Coordinator in DDS' Metairie office. Langford has been proactive in her efforts to correct and consolidate entries in the DDS Vendor File, ensuring that vendors are paid timely and accurately, and helping to eliminate processing delays by maintaining current vendor information.

Three DDS employees, Eric Whitehead, Florence Young and Terri Spurgeon, will receive regional awards for their contributions to the Dallas region of the SSA, which includes Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Whitehead will be honored with the SSA Regional Commissioner's Quality Service Award for his initiative in making the software DDS uses to process disability claims more efficient. Whitehead, who works in the DDS Computer Center in Baton Rouge, collaborated with users to better understand their needs, tested numerous software releases and updated products to make them compatible with electronic services offered by the SSA. As a result, DSS employees are able to use technology more effectively to assist Louisiana's disabled residents.

Young is set to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions during her 20 year career at the Metairie DDS office. Young coined a slogan - "Three by Three" - that has helped DDS case workers set and achieve goals. The idea behind the phrase is that case workers should make three decisions by 3:00 p.m. everyday. Young's innovations have extended to staff training. She developed a five-step process to help new employees learn complicated information. Along with helping to reduce caseloads, making training easier and even organizing social events, Young's co-workers say the best asset she brings to the Metairie DDS office is her tireless attitude and enthusiasm.

Spurgeon will be presented with the Regional Commissioner's eServices Excellence Award. This award recognizes Spurgeon's work with SSA's electronic services website, allowing most SSA applicants the ability to now apply on-line and conduct various business interactions. Spurgeon, who works in DDS' state office, is also recognized for being part of a group that developed efficient procedures to encourage third party representatives to submit evidence electronically.

"These dedicated individuals are certainly worthy representatives of the entire Department of Children & Family Services," said Alison Neustrom, DSS Assistant Secretary, Office of Family Support. "We are fortunate to have them working on behalf of Louisiana's citizens with disabilities."

The national awards will be presented to DDS and Langford during a ceremony in Detroit on May 19. Whitehead, Young and Spurgeon will be honored in Dallas at the Regional Awards Ceremony during federal Public Service Recognition Week, the first week of May.