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Vote by Thursday for best cost-saving idea

By Ed O'Keefe

Americans have until Thursday to help pick the best cost-cutting idea from federal employees for inclusion in President Obama's FY '11 federal budget proposals.

The Office of Management and Budget narrowed a list of 38,000 submissions from federal employees down to four options as part of the agency's first-ever SAVE Awards, which launched in October.

The four ideas come from employees working for the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Forest Service and Department of Housing and Urban Development. The ideas would benefit Social Security recipients, or anyone who has to visit a Social Security office; wounded or sick veterans; visitors to national parks; or Americans living in subsidized housing.

Read the ideas below then vote for your favorite by visiting SaveAward.gov. The winner's ideas gets a face-to-face meeting with President Obama and their idea included in his FY'11 budget request.

Idea #1 by Christie Dickson of the Social Security Administration: Make Social Security Appointments Online

Dickson works for the agency in Alabama and wants to help save time and money by allowing people to schedule their appointments online.

“I think it would be cost effective to allow (with stipulations) the public to also schedule appointments online. We set up appointments about two-thirds of the time on the phone. By having access to a schedule online, that would allow us time to assist more people.”

Idea #2 by Nancy Fichtner of the Department of Veterans Affairs: Let Vets Take Unused Medication Home from the Hospital

Fichtner thinks veterans leaving VA hospitals should be permitted to take any leftover medication home with them instead of having it thrown away.

“Currently the inpatient medications such as ointments, inhalers, eye drops, and other bulk items are being disposed of upon patient discharge," Fichtner said.

Idea #3 by Julie Fosbender of the U.S. Forest Service: Save Money when Collecting Money

Fosbender works at West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest and wants to be able to deposit visitor fees and other funds in a local bank. Why?

“When Forest Service personnel collect money from the public (e.g. selling a pass or collecting campground fees), we take that money, count it, drive to a bank to convert the cash into a money order, and then turn the paperwork, checks, and money order over to a unit collection officer," Fosbender said. "The unit collection officer then recounts the receipts, makes two copies of the money orders and checks, creates a bill for collection, waits 24 hours for the bill to print, fills out a remittance report, runs two calculator tapes of receipts (one for her and one for the bank) and mails the package (via certified mail) to a bank in San Francisco, Calif."

"Why can't we just deposit our collections into a local bank?" she asked.

Idea # 4 by Huston Prescott of HUD: Streamline Redundant Inspections of Subsidized Housing

Prescott wants to save inspectors' time and taxpayer money by streamlining subsidized housing units. These locations receive funds from many different grant programs.

“Each of these funding sources requires its own physical inspection of the units as well as calculating incomes in different manners and annual audits," Prescott said. "They report the same information in multiple formats. Countless hours spent recreating information could be used in more productive ways.”

Vote for your favorite cost-saving idea then leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 7, 2009; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Administration  
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Comments

All the suggestions have merit. The two that go directly to citizen service should both win.

Posted by: lancepcope | December 7, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

All four of these ideas are very solid and need to be implemented. I have called Social Security and been put on hold for long periods just to get an appointment for four weeks later. The more we can put government on line the better! I think that Social Security is one of the better federal government organizations in their interface with the public, but they can still do more to improve the experience of working on-line.

Posted by: dave1011 | December 7, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

A big money saver.

Require only an 8th grade education in the United States.

Since we have abandoned all 21st century jobs to outsourcing overseas, and the President will tell us that the jobs of green energy are the jobs that Americans should count on. He will tell us that the jobs of the future are installing insulation and solar panels, and screwing in florescent light bulbs. Let us be realistic.

Americans do not need more than an 8th grade education since we are abandoning the jobs of the 21st century and going back to the manual jobs of the 19th century.

Think of all the money the government could save.

Posted by: bsallamack | December 7, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

It's too bad the summary of the four finalists' ideas did not include an estimate of how much each idea would save. It would seem fair to take into consideration the financial impact of the proposals. With the breadth of the Social Security system, my guess is the idea to automate its appointments system would save the most money AND improve customer service, so I would vote for that. (In countries with significant demand, the State Department runs an automated system for folks to make appointments for visas, and my guess is their experiences would be useful to the SSA). All four of these ideas should be implemented, quite frankly (and probably there are many more). I read them and I all I could think was, "duh" and wonder why they weren't in place already.

Posted by: VirginiaReader1 | December 7, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

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