Problem: There are long waiting times for claimants in the field offices, waiting to complete applications for retirement, survivor, Medicare and disability claims.
Cause of problem: As the baby boomers are reaching retirement age, the number of retirement and Medicare claims has been increasing, while the number of employees available to help them is decreasing. (Many employees are baby boomers themselves and are also reaching retirement age. Budget cuts have forced us into a hiring freeze.) The number of disability claims has also risen.
Current measures to compensate for rise in claims and utilize technology: Claimants may file applications on the internet using our website, www.ssa.gov, or by calling 1-800-772-1213.
Some limitations to current measures: Some claimants do not use the internet or do not have access to the internet. Other claimants prefer to do business in person.
My proposal: I suggest that we use video conferencing equipment that is already located in many of our field offices to allow- and even encourage- claimants that are waiting in line to file claims with Claims Representatives that presently take claims over the telephone (the aforementioned 800 number). That way, if an office is experiencing a high visitor volume, but the 800 number is not, the telephone Claims Reps can alleviate the field office workload. Further, by establishing video conferencing capability in the Immediate (Telephone) Claims Taking Units, you can bridge the gap between technology and baby boomers that cannot use the internet or prefer to do business in person. Having a Claims Rep available to interact in real time on the video monitor, should give a better measure of comfort to a claimant that would not otherwise choose to file a claim over the telephone. The equipment is currently being used, but not on a full time basis.
In short, use of this equipment will reduce field office wait time, as well as bridge the gap between baby boomers and technology.