SSA awards another round for program

The Social Security Administration last month awarded a $15 million contract to Electronic Data Systems Corp. to hook up hundreds of SSA offices to its interactive training network bringing the agency closer to training its employees via live video on the desktop.

Under the five-year task order EDS will roll out equipment to connect 610 SSA offices to the Interactive Video Teletraining (IVT) network which permits an instructor at one site to train simultaneously hundreds of workers on new agency policies and procedures.

SSA employees gather in front of large TVs set up in SSA classrooms nationwide. Lessons are piped in to SSA classrooms via satellite and students interact with instructors via a telephone-based system asking questions aloud or using a keypad to answer questions or to alert the instructor when they do not understand the lesson.

SSA has spent the past year and a half outfitting more than 200 offices with IVT. The network saves the administration on travel expenses which might entail sending a handful of instructors around the nation to train employees on new ways to process Social Security claims and benefits or even bringing a group of office managers together for training at a central location.

Offices already connected to the training network were wired under a contract with AT&T. Under a separate contract York Telecom Inc. will install the telephone-based equipment that students will use to interact with instructors.

Key to Success

The training that will take place over the network is key to SSA's success. The agency is constantly refining its procedures for how it processes Social Security benefits and claims. Thousands of SSA employees have to be updated on the changes often under deadlines. "They have to provide training to their people and they need to do it quickly and they need to do it properly " said Ken Bassmann EDS manager for Telecommunications Integrator Services (TELIS).

"The biggest [advantage of IVT] was saving money " said Ward Bechtel IVT manager. "Here at SSA...our policies and our systems are constantly being changed."

Once all SSA's offices are wired for teletraining the agency may begin to save even more money by wiring desktop computers within those offices to the teletraining network Bechtel said. Six SSA offices already are wired for desktop training under a pilot program Bechtel said.

SSA tapped the Energy Department's TELIS contract to award the task order which represented the first major buy off of the contract. TELIS awarded to EDS in April is a $600 million contract for the design installation and maintenance of telecommunications systems.

Sources say SSA considered other governmentwide vehicles such as the National Institutes of Health's Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners program blanket purchase agreements and the General Services Administration schedule. SSA chose TELIS because it provides a single vehicle that can provide analysis system design installation and maintenance Bassmann said.

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