OKLAHOMA CITY – Sheila Everett, Dallas Regional Commissioner for the Social Security Administration, arrived in Oklahoma City recently to honor long-time colleague Noel Tyler.
Tyler served 15 years as Disability Determination Services administrator and was recognized Thursday with a celebration by her former employees and regional SSA leaders.
The federally funded Disability Determination program determines medical eligibility for social security disability benefits for Oklahomans and assists with determinations in 20 other states.
DDS is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
The Commission for Rehabilitation Services selected Tyler to step up to the position of interim DRS director in February.
Tyler led Oklahoma DDD to the No. 2 ranking in accuracy in the U.S.
Based on DDS’ consistently high accuracy rate, the Social Security Administration selected the Oklahoma office as one of four Extended Service Teams to assist with disability claims across the nation. The selection brought additional funding and resources to the state, including an 85 percent increase in federally funded jobs to handle the new workloads.
Other accomplishments under her leadership include completing a new facility, transitioning from paper to an electronic file system to expedite claim processing and adding the Oklahoma Cooperative Disability Investigation Program, which identifies people who have committed disability fraud related to initial and continuing disability claims.
Commissioner Everett presented Tyler with a regional commissioner’s citation, the highest honor that she can convey. She acknowledged Tyler’s leadership and partnership with Diane Vaughn, area director for SSA’s southern Oklahoma field offices and Dallas metroplex field offices.
“Noel and Diane working together made sure we knew what each other’s challenges were and that we worked toward common solutions.” Everett said. “I want to make sure that all of relationships between our DDS and field offices are as good as the one between Noel and Diane.”
Brian Nickles, Tyler’s successor and current DDD administrator, said, “I believe that this (celebration today) speaks to who Noel is as a person and what drives her because she is … committed to her beliefs, to her vision, to make whatever she touches, where ever she is a better place.”
The Oklahoma Cooperative Disability Investigation Program staff presented Noel with a haiku poem tucked inside a white cowboy hat in recognition of her “good guy” status.
“Thank you for this recognition and all that work that you do for this agency, for this division, for each other and the people that we serve,” Tyler responded. “I appreciate and graciously accept your kind words about the value and respect that I have tried to give … but the thing I would like to say to all of you is that I didn’t do this alone.”
Tyler referenced a poem written by children in a support group she and her younger sister, Judy Lorenzen, helped form for those with loved ones facing life-threatening illnesses.
“I am not alone. You are not alone. And together we are not alone. And I hope you that as you move through your career and hopefully your life, that you will remember that the people that we serve, they cannot be alone.”
Tyler has been honored with awards in the past, including the DRS director’s award and the Social Security Administration’s Phoenix award, Andy Marioni memorial award and regional commissioners citation and commendations.