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SSA considers videoconferencing

At a meeting of the Social Security Administration's Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel, agency officials announced to the panel that the SSA was considering implementing video conference capabilities on the SSA website. According to the agency, this would allow those applying for or receiving Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income, or Social Security retirement benefits to ask questions of and receive customer service from SSA employees from home, instead of being forced to call the SSA 800 number or visit a field office.

Currently, the SSA has a program where applicants or benefit recipients who are waiting for customer service at busy field offices to use in-office videoconferencing capabilities to meet with an employee at a less busy field office. The SSA also holds internal meetings via video conference. These programs will likely give the agency a solid foundation for expanding to at-home videoconferencing for applicants and recipients.

According to Darlynda Bogle of the SSA's open government office, the SSA is "in the middle of the pack" in terms of federal agencies and their policies and programs utilizing social networking. Currently, approximately 1,000 people subscribe to the SSA YouTube page, and the agency has 11,000 Facebook fans and over 2,000 Twitter followers. Last week, the SSA launched its first iPhone application.

While many of the current social networking tools were created from a PR perspective, the agency is likely to focus on something more functional for its next development. As applications increase and field offices are forced to cut employees, videoconferencing will likely become a valuable tool for the agency.

Source: NextGov, Joseph Marks, 24 May 2011

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