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Texas State Team Chosen as Finalists for MITRE Verification Challenge

photo of Tahir Ekin
Dr. Tahir Ekin

A multi-disciplinary Texas State team was chosen as one of four finalists for the MITRE Research Challenge on Eligibility Verification for federal benefit programs. The team consists of Dr. Tahir Ekin, associate professor in the Computer Information Systems and Quantitative Methods Department, McCoy College, Mr. Hayden Isler, an undergraduate student majoring in Applied Mathematics, and Mr. Gregory Lakomski, a faculty member in the Computer Science Department of the College of Science and Engineering. The team was asked to develop a framework that could enable effective eligibility verification for a hypothetical benefits program. The four finalists were judged on the potential to measurably reduce improper payments.

The MITRE Corporation launched the Challenge to motivate creative inventors to find ground-breaking approaches to solving the problem of improper enrollment in federal benefit programs. The Challenge seeks to discover innovative, cost-effective solutions that government agencies can use to improve verification of benefit eligibility in federal programs. The Texas State team will use Bayesian data-analytics methods for monitoring ongoing eligibility and facial-recognition methods for initial eligibility checks. The strength of the framework comes from the assumption of ineligibility unless otherwise documented, extending the definition of applicant to all members of the household, and making the applicants an active component of the eligibility checks while using advanced analytics. This can be a feasible alternative to current systems since it has the potential to be affordable, dynamic, scalable, and implementable without any legislative changes.

Dr. Ekin and the other team members will present their proposal at the MITRE headquarters in McLean, VA, on March 13, 2019, competing for a grand prize of $50,000. The winning proposal will be improved and implemented with the support of the federal agencies to tackle the billion-dollar problem of improper payments and eligibility verification issues.