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Whoever wrote the Chinese proverb, “The adventure is the reward,” acutely wasn’t anticipating Texas’ efforts to alter its 30-year-old bequest allowances processing system.

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It has taken added than eight years to accompany the new Texas Integrated Accommodation Redesign Arrangement (TIERS) online in every arena of the state. While its users ultimately may acquisition it added able than its antecedent — the 1970s-era Arrangement of Application, Verification, Eligibility, Referral and Reporting (SAVERR) — it’s acceptable that the cadre complex in the alteration are beholden the project’s accomplishment band is now durably in sight.

The about-face to TIERS had an arrangement of problems from the start. Although the activity began in June 2003 as a pilot in both Travis and Hays counties, and the arrangement was implemented in Williamson County in 2006, the action abject on through the end of the decade.

Different systems integrators approved blame the TIERS accomplishing through — Texas aboriginal went with Deloitte, again switched to Accenture alone to acknowledgment to Deloitte — but the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) attack to advance its accommodation arrangement seemed destined for a colossal failure.

According to Texas officials, the back-and-forth ball amid Accenture and Deloitte led to some abstruse issues with the cipher anchored in TIERS. The appliance encountered networking issues that slowed processing and, at times, pages on which users were alive would aback go blank.

Combined with workers actuality alien with TIERS and comparatively trained, it’s no abruptness that a November 2007 accompaniment analysis alleged TIERS “cumbersome to use.”

The assured arrest of assignment led to backlogged accommodation cases and snowballed into a academic afflicted government project.

These days, however, the angle is brighter, acknowledgment abundantly to advice alien from Michigan. Stanley Stewart, who had guided the Wolverine Accompaniment through a agnate accommodation arrangement implementation, was assassin in aboriginal 2010 as a adviser by Tom Suehs, controlling abettor of the HHSC.

Stewart was fabricated the HHSC’s agent arch of agents for Accommodation Integration and put in allegation of the absolute TIERS rollout. Sixteen months later, TIERS was absolutely online and activity in every arena of Texas.

While it would be inaccurate to characterization Stewart the project’s sole savior, his arrangement and administration of the TIERS rollout was article both Suehs and Stewart acquainted was analytical in axis about the arrangement accomplishing process.

Suehs said that Michigan faced problems agnate to those in Texas, aloof on a abate scale. So instead of reinventing the wheel, he handed Stewart ascendancy of the TIERS project.

The move may access been apparent as chancy to some, accustomed that the two had never accepted or formed with anniversary other. But Suehs was atrocious for improvement, and he was afflicted abundant by Stewart’s activity administration access to cycle the dice. “It became accessible that he had the bodies skills,” Suehs explained, “and that’s allotment of what was missing here.”  

When Suehs became HHSC abettor in 2009, he anon began fielding complaints from absolute TIERS users, as able-bodied as from advisers transitioning from the old SAVERR application.

After speaking with front-line workers, Suehs assured that the TIERS technology was “probably OK,” but the accord amid users and IT cadre arch the allowance bare austere improvement. Users were cogent software designers what they needed, but their acknowledgment didn’t assume to accomplish a difference.

“Somehow the advice amid the front-line artisan and our technology agents had broken,” Suehs said. “It additionally became bright that we weren’t training the agents in a acceptable way to access the technology transition. So I above bottomward our issues to communication, training and listening.”

Stewart’s turnaround methods were beneath about the technology and added focused on the bodies operating the system.

His aboriginal footfall was to appraise and ultimately advance TIERS training, which was actuality done in a address architecture by bodies who didn’t apperceive the arrangement well. Stewart had the trainers relearn the arrangement from the arena up, and again assignment absolute cases brought up by advisers to accord them “hands-on” acquaintance in analytic assorted problems.

Another important change, Stewart said, was not absolution advisers acknowledgment to the old SAVERR arrangement already they began TIERS training. “That fabricated a big difference, and already bodies started actuality a little added successful, added bodies came along,” he said, abacus that new hires took readily to TIERS, while those who were acknowledged appliance SAVERR “struggled a little bit,” but are accomplishing well.

The advance in training and bigger onsite abutment bargain artisan annoyance and bigger productivity, Stewart said. Like their Michigan counterparts, HHSC advisers alive with TIERS tended to absorb hours aggravating to dness issues themselves.

“Now if it’s added than 10 account and you can’t get through it — you can put a little banderole alfresco your appointment and somebody will appear and advice you,” Stewart said.

Along with training and teamwork improvements, Suehs re-emphasized accountability from his accomplishing team, including account affairs for arch administration to accost activity issues. Those affairs accommodate assembly from assorted offices, from the abstracts agents to accessible advice officials. All issues are brought to the table and, according to Suehs, the affairs don’t move advanced until administration belletrist on anniversary office’s achievement on allowance the excess of accommodation cases.

Suehs was determined that anybody address on their advance and access all of their issues addressed.

“I knew everybody would be busting their backsides to accomplish abiding they did things from the antecedent anniversary and that they alone had Monday and Tuesday to brightness it up,” Suehs said. “It agency that I was banishment them to be focused on a week-by-week base of acclamation our issues and acclamation the problem.”

Stewart additionally abiding Suehs to accompany TIERS online afterwards cat-and-mouse for upgrades and tweaks to the system. “Stanley assertive me to append accomplishing any above improvements in the technology. He said, ‘Let’s accompany the technology online, and … abuse it afterwards that, but abdicate messing with it appropriate now.’

“That is a above action accommodation I anticipate Stanley generated actual aboriginal on as a advancement that apparently had added appulse in establishing the arrangement than annihilation else,” Suehs said.

Despite the contempo momentum, amusing account advancement groups say TIERS isn’t absolutely out of the dupe yet.

Celia Cole, a arch action analyst at the Center for Accessible Action Priorities, said the appliance action for allowances accommodation is bigger — but it’s still heavily paper-based and labor-intensive. “In some means we’re aggravating to get a horse to cull a train,” Cole said. “They are out of sync. We access these anachronous appliance processes, yet we access these abundant new cyberbanking and automatic accoutrement for accepting bodies assimilate the program.”

And Martha Orozco, managing advocate of Lone Star Legal Aid’s Accessible Allowances Unit, contends that TIERS still struggles to accommodated requirements for the Aliment Brand Act. At first, abnegation belletrist issued by the arrangement didn’t accommodate the affidavit why an alone bootless to authorize for the aliment brand affairs — which Orozco said is mandatory. Those belletrist now accommodate the appropriate explanation, but the affidavit for abnegation generally are “completely amiss and irrelevant,” she said.

Orozco added that appliance forms generated by the new arrangement can be confusing, abnormally to non-English speaking applicants. This can aftereffect in these applicants declining to accommodate appropriate advice and actuality denied benefits.

Still, accustomed their advance over the accomplished 16 months, HHSC admiral say they’ve accomplished an important milestone. The basal rollout of TIERS was completed back the Dallas arena came online in September, according to Stewart. As of that date, programs such as Medicaid, aliment stamps, and the Texas Works application apprenticeship and training affairs were all active through TIERS.

Further deployments to handle Medicaid for the elderly, affliction and abiding care, and a three-year acceptance for the Texas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Affairs (SNAP) for bodies who accept Supplemental Security Income were complete in mid-December.

Still, Suehs wants to accumulate Stewart about for at atomic addition year — to advice with assorted arrangement changes and improvements, such as Web aperture upgrades and aboriginal planning for TIERS to access a beyond applicant amount in January 2014 due to civic health-care reform. Suehs additionally wants Stewart to alteration his abilities to the HHSC’s bounded admiral and admiral afore departing.

Suehs added that while Stewart was brought on as a consultant, he advised him like his agent arch of agents and gave him that authority. “I anticipate that was analytical to the success of the project,” Suehs said. “He wasn’t aloof an alfresco adviser; he was responsible, and I was activity to ascendancy him accountable.”

To accomplish abiding anniversary arena in Texas stays on top of things, Stewart gets circadian belletrist from them that account any behind cases and follows up on them as necessary.

Stewart was quick to acclaim Suehs for the TIERS success, however, adage it was his assurance in bringing in an alien and giving Stewart abounding ascendancy that helped the accomplishing about-face the corner.

As for the future, Stewart said he’ll assignment with the HHSC to tie up apart ends. But he anticipates the actual assignment to be completed bound because agents associates now access bought into TIERS and the new training system.

“I annoyed a few accoutrement actuality to get it done,” Stewart said, “but the assignment for added states is that back you accompany in a consultant, they charge alteration ability and captivation to those who are activity to be larboard to run the program.”

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