Open Government Honor Awards

Congratulations Award Winners banner

Our agency is committed to recognizing individuals and teams whose work helps us achieve a more open and transparent agency. Each year we honor those individuals or teams with our Open Government Honor Award, a Commissioner-level award, for their outstanding efforts.

The 2015 Open Government Honor Award honorees include:

The SSA National Disability Forum (NDF) Team

SSA recognized the National Disability Forums (NDF) team, an SSA-moderated collaborative forum, including agency executives, disability advocates, state and federal agency partners, and Congressional staffers, among others, for their actions on increasing opportunities for early input in the disability decision-making process directly with policy makers. Further, the NDF team promotes opportunities for stakeholders to hear perspectives from one another, with an accompanying engagement using IdeaScale, an innovation management tool.

The NDF promotes the spirit and principles of Open Government through their inclusive and collaborative approach in developing responsive, effective, and efficient policies empowering individuals with a disability, minimizing their financial hardship, and ensuring proper use of the Disability Trust funds.

The SSA National Disability Forum Team:

  • James Edrington (Co-Lead), Office of Disability and Retirement Policy
  • Marianne Brackney (Co-Lead), Office of Communications
  • Gina Clemons, Office of Disability and Retirement Policy
  • Melissa Spencer, Office of Disability and Retirement Policy
  • Paul G. Martin, Office of General Law
  • Kathy Dean-Huff, Office of Disability and Retirement Policy
  • Keyonna Beverly, Office of Disability and Retirement Policy
  • James Preston, Office of Disability and Retirement Policy
  • Andre Clarke, Office of Disability and Retirement Policy
  • Cecilia Bamford, Office of Disability and Retirement Policy
  • J. Jioni Palmer, Office of Communications
  • Maria Artista-Cuchna, Office of Communications
  • Arnoldo Moore (Public Affairs Specialist), Chattanooga Tenn. Field Office
  • Kevin Krieger, Office of Communications
  • Joie Hill, Office of Communications
  • Stephen McGraw, Office of Communications
  • Joann Sim, Office of Communications
  • Billy Bowman, Office of Communications

Congressional Testimony Search Tool Team

This team was honored for developing and providing a convenient tool for the public to search agency congressional testimonies. With the creation of the new Congressional Testimony Search Tool, the public now has a user-friendly way to access all of this data. Prior to the new Congressional Testimony Search Tool, users needed to know when the hearing dates would have occurred in order to retrieve and access SSA’s Congressional testimonies. Moreover, there was no ability to search testimonials by witness name or subject.

This new tool improves the transparency of our services and programs by making it easier for Congressional staff and members of the public to find information on specific areas of interest, serving as a one-stop reference. The search tool, with its comprehensive database of testimony and accessible search capabilities, facilitates transparency of agency information, and encourages easier collaboration with Social Security advocates.

The Congressional Testimony Search Tool Team:

  • John S. Brzostowski, Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs
  • Thomas D. Businger, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
  • Gary L. Davis, Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs
  • Llewellyn M. Robinson, Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs

Past Honorees


  • Brandy Mershon, from the Office of Health Information Technology and Electronic Policy, for her efforts in promoting active engagement and collaboration with internal stakeholders across the Agency by implementing web-based idea sharing communities. Brandy developed, deployed, and actively maintains two internal web-based idea-sharing communities (IdeaCAT and IdeaBench) which aid in identifying and prioritizing the systems resources to make improvements to important tools that support in the processing of disability claims. In addition, she launched two external IdeaScale engagements to gather public feedback on Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) training and to open up a dialogue with disability advocates for the National Disability Coalition.
  • Brian Peltier, from the Office of Enterprise Support, Architecture, and Engineering, for his efforts in integrating and automating agency open data initiatives that provide agency benefits, meet OMB mandates, and deliver value to the public through increasing transparency of SSA’s programs and operations. Brian was instrumental in the development of the agency's initial Open Data Enterprise Data Inventory, and with his help our agency has been recognized by OMB and GSA for the quality and innovativeness of our data efforts.
  • Linda Zamfino, from the San Francisco Region—Bay Area Director’s Office, for her coordination and oversight for SSI County Homeless Projects in six San Francisco Bay Area counties. Linda met with numerous County officials and helped set the framework for a partnership to assist the transition of homeless individuals receiving County benefits to become eligible for SSI Disability benefits. Her efforts have modified local business processes, helped expedite the processing of disability claims and made the disability filing process more transparent, participatory and collaborative.
  • The Whistleblower Protection Act team (Erin Justice and Jennifer Herrmann from the Office of the Inspector General, and Sarah Humphreys from the Office of Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity), for their efforts in drafting the SSA Open Government Plan’s Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman (WPO) Appendix, presenting a mandatory WPO video-on-demand (VOD) training presentation for all SSA employees, and creating and distributing posters nationwide regarding Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) protections and Prohibited Personnel Practices (PPP). Through their cross-component and cross-government efforts, this team has furthered greater active engagement by Federal employees, free from PPP, retaliation, and reprisal for blowing the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.


  • Health IT Partnership Team –This team worked to establish a health records exchange based on input from and collaboration with medical associations, health privacy advocates, medical providers, and state and federal agencies such as Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD), as well as 20 providers in 19 states and Washington, DC . Health IT fully automates the process for obtaining medical evidence. The time it takes us to complete a disability claim should decrease as the number of treating sources using health IT increases.
  • Limited English Proficiency Video Vignette Team – This team worked diligently, collaborating with agency components and 13 other agencies to produce a video training series that gives federal employees training to better recognize and provide service to individuals with limited English proficiency.
  • Cook County Jail Secure Messaging Team – This team, from the Chicago Region, set up a streamlined approach to prisoner reporting employing the Government Services Online secure messaging system.


  • IdeaCAT Team – This team was honored for developing and maintaining IdeaCAT, a crowd-sourcing tool that allows users to submit ideas for enhancements to the eCAT (electronic Case Assessment Tool). IdeaCAT allows users to vote and comment on the ideas that others submit. This tool helps prioritize actions to improve eCAT. This tool promotes transparency because the IdeaCAT team provides feedback and status on comments via its web page and regular newsletters. In addition, it posts all comments without moderation, permitting the user community to "police" the discussion if necessary. This same team has also developed the electronic Bench Book (eBB) for hearing offices to use to help standardize and document the hearing decision process and outcome.
  • ODAR’s Team – This team was honored for its extensive efforts in publishing a high number of high-value data sets. These datasets, which provide statistics and other information about our disability appeals process, received more views and downloads than any of our other open government data releases. The datasets reflect the true value of public data, fostering use that leads to greater agency accountability and responsiveness and increased public knowledge of the agency and its operations.