Early in the process of implementing the SUCCESS program, the Office for Victims of Crime realized that the eligibility decision on an application is a significant control point and the reparations officers (the employees who decide whether applications are approved or denied) need to spend more time making decisions that only they can make. Based on these realizations, the office adjusted its focus so that other employees are working to provide a full kit of information to reparations officers. This allows the reparations officers to spend more time making eligibility decisions (blue light). The office also took steps to eliminate a backlog of applications. Since making these adjustments, the office has eliminated its backlog of applications, reduced the average time for eligibility decisions from the FY12 average of 33 days to just over 17 days (for June 2013) and increased the number of eligibility decisions from 344 per month to 530 in June. The concepts of full kit and blue light have been critical to these improvements.
Understanding the new focus in the office, Gary Scheller, Director of the Office for Victims of Crime, redirected resources and restructured parts of the office—emphasizing the control point. Employees other than the reparations officers now spend more time preparing the full kit (tasks that were previously performed by the reparations officers) allowing the reparations officers to focus on eligibility decisions. Gary also restructured the role of victim advocates in the office. Each of two advocates is now assigned to work in teams with three reparations officers. Whereas the advocates previously had a quasi-adversarial relationship with the reparations officers, they now view their work as preparing the full kit to assist the reparations officers. The morale of the office has improved significantly as has throughput.
Gary also realized that if the reparations officers were always working on old applications, they would not have time for new applications and processing times would not improve. Customer service and quality would also suffer. On May 1, Gary Scheller instructed the reparation officers that by July 1st, all applications with a full kit that had been in the office for more than 30 days were required to be processed. He also implemented a policy and process of terminating applications after 60 days of receipt if the required information was not received. However, those applications could be terminated only after verification that four requests for the information had been made at two-week intervals and that applicants had been engaged in attempts to obtain the information. Saturday work schedules and accrual of modest amounts of comp time were authorized during the month of June. However, the increase in throughput far exceeded the rate of additional time authorized.
Quality of decision-making has remained strong with all of these changes. The denial rate has remained consistent, confirming that reparations officers are not denying cases to eliminate the backlog. Additionally, no denials in June have resulted in appeals. The entire staff has worked very hard and have worked together to implement the SUCCESS Framework concepts.