May 27, 2015
The modernization project arrived in Muncie, the largest city in the first pilot area, a year after its launch. System failures were immediate and widespread. Applicants waited 20 or 30 minutes on hold, only to be denied benefits for “failure to cooperate in establishing eligibility” if they were unable to receive a callback after having burned through their limited cellphone minutes. They faxed millions of pages of photocopied driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, and other supporting documents to a processing center in Marion, 40 miles away; so many of the documents disappeared that advocates started calling it “the black hole in Marion.” If one page among dozens was too dark to read, damaged in transmission, or incorrectly indexed to a case, the application was denied.