Social security customer service

Ssa Hey, the folks at the Social Security Administration are moving head, providing increasingly better customer service through the Net.

Think Social Security is just for your grandparents? Think again!  You probably didn’t know that, in addition to making retirement payments and issuing Social Security cards, the program offers other types of coverage – for people of all ages!  To find out more, as well as get answers to questions like “what’s that FICA tax that comes out of my paycheck?,” and “why should I worry about planning for retirement now?, “check out this webinar, “Social Security 101: What’s in it for me?” The broadcast starts at 3 pm EST on Thursday, March 10th and will feature a brief presentation followed by an interactive question-and-answer session.  RSVP and watch the webinar at this link.  There’s something in it for you!

Millenials reimagine America’s future

6a00d834fd816853ef0148c82defd0970c-320wi Okay, it's time for young Americans, millenials, to figure out what their version of the American Dream is, and to figure out how to get there.

The folks at the Roosevelt Campus Network are getting maybe 8000 young citizens to get involved with to reimagine America’s future and take action to realize that vision in their local communities:

Already, Roosevelt Campus Network has engaged over 2,000 young people in these conversations online and in person.

This interactive web space allows young people to match their values and priorities to ongoing
student-led local projects that are moving America toward a grand vision.

Additionally, Millennials are encouraged to consider how to translate their visions for America
into a concrete Federal budget, through the Budget Hero game. Online grassroots engagement of this type is unprecedented on this scale.

The World Wide Web Foundation

Logo_wf Hey, there are a lot of good groups advancing the cause of the open net, and also extending that to people who need a break. One particularly effective group is the World Wide Web Foundation, and it has notable credentials. One of the principals is Tim Berners-Lee, who pretty much invented the Web.

In the more nerdly circles he champions the "semantic web". Oversimplified, to me that means that stuff on the web has sophisticated tags that says what an item is and how it can related to other stuff. Programs can then connect the dots to get real info that's too hard to figure out currently.

They're doing a lot more, including:

first assessments of implementing open government data programs in Chile and Ghana


mobile entrepreneur training program in Ghana

with more to come!


An open source approach to Veterans Affairs medical info

For years, the VA has run the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), which is their Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. Turns out it was written by clinicians themselves, and has served well over years. However, the VA believes it might be time to use open source methods in a kind of public/private partnership. This is a really big deal, novel in government, which might also improve the health record systems we all use. This could become the basis of a jointly developed health records platform.

Here's the gist:

VistA’s capabilities evolved endogenously over the many years it has been in successful production, and are the result of the contributions of many innovations, including those that came from within VA itself. However, today’s health care environment – in which new models of care are continuously developed and deployed – is utterly dependent upon the accelerating technological development of new medical devices, improved IT infrastructure, services, and wireless communications. In order to sensibly benefit from these advances, VA must address fundamental structural constraints that will inhibit its ability to keep pace with health services delivery. Specifically, VA believes that a structured, deliberate, and predictable migration from our custom and proprietary EHR software to an openly architected, modular, and standards-based platform will achieve five crucial objectives:

  1. It will unleash EHR innovation inside and outside VA.
  2. It will release VA’s captive dependency on any particular component or service and give our clinicians access to the best available tools andsolutions.
  3. It will reduce the costs and risks of reliable implementation (andintegration) of new functional modules that improve VistA’s capabilities.
  4. It will measurably improve health outcomes for our nation’s Veterans.
  5. It will enable other providers in the public and private health caresystem to benefit from, contribute to, and interoperate with this national asset.

VA Blue Button moves ahead with vets health records

6a00d834fd816853ef0133f365cbe1970b-320wi The Blue Button is a way for a vet to download their personal healthrecord, maybe to bring to a doctor or clinic. It's a moving target, abig step toward getting more info available and accessible. It's one of many efforts across government to provide better medical care at lowercost for everyone.

Blue Button draws mostly on data entered by the vet, but also has aconnection to health information from the Department of VeteransAffairs. DoD has one too. Because they coordinated so closely they arenearly identical. You don't see that every day in large agencies.

The deal is that Veterans Affairs has greatly accelerated the rate atwhich they serve vets, with lots more to come.

Vets can access their Blue Button records at

It includes the following now, more to come:

  • Emergency contact information
  • Medications
  • Allergies
  • Medical conditions and personal
  • medical history
  • Family medical history
  • Test results
  • Military health history
  • Health Care Providers
  • Treatment Facilities
  • Health Insurance
  • Immunizations
  • Labs and Tests
  • Vitals and Readings
  • Family Health History (Self and Relatives)

Again, it's a moving target, more to automation to come, which will benefit us all.

A new Greatest Generation via the Roosevelt Campus Network

Blue Okay, the deal is the that the people of the Depression era changed the world, inspired by a President with a vision and who got stuff done.

The Roosevelt Campus Network is trying to replicate that, and here's more:

On FDR’s birthday, the Roosevelt Campus Network, is launching a youth-generated vision for the
future– a New Deal for the Millennial America. In the same way that FDR’s New Deal established America’s political course for years to come, the culmination of the Campus Network’s Think 2040 project, Blueprint for the Millennial America, outlines the Millennial generation’s goals and policy priorities for the next thirty years and offers a unique glimpse
at an engaged, socially empathetic, community-minded, and hyper informed generation of
Americans. To date, thousands of Millennials nation-wide have contributed their 2040 vision.
Now, young people across the country are taking action to
make their vision a reality. Over the course of the next few months, students nation-wide are
launching action projects to move towards their 2040 goals, including

• Investments in public infrastructure
• Equal access to quality education
• Elimination of the socioeconomic achievement gap
• Climate change adaptation and mitigation
• A strong green jobs sector
• The creation of a stronger, more flexible “social safety trampoline” as top priorities for
the next thirty years.

Organic Health Response/Inveneo: using the Net to fight AIDS in Kenya

OHR Links graphic

The folks at Organic Health Response are doing really good stuff, using IT and environmental sustainability on Mfangano Island in Western Kenya to work against HIV/AIDS across Lake Victoria.


Chwera Chwera Microclinc

They're working with Inveneo, their deal is to get IT, such as computers, telephony, and Internet access to those who need it most — people and organizations in rural and highly underserved communities of the developing world.

We're working with OHR and also Inveneo efforts in Haiti and the West Bank to learn how to better connect people across the world. They provide sustainable tech, including good bandwidth, to people  who really need it. They're handling the practical problems of getting network towers up, negotiating with local government.

  This was a big year for OHR:

  • Established a streamlined referral and follow-up system for HIV/AIDS care and treatment, in partnership with UCSF Family AIDS Care and Education Services
  • Celebrated our 3rdAnnual World AIDS Day
  • Installed a 300Watt solar system, 3 Inveneo low-power workstations, with a Safaricom Internet Router to successfully provide free internet access to all EK Members
  • Became the leading VCT center in enrollment for all of Suba District within the first 3 months of operation

"We have worked for 6 months since we've opened the EK's doors and I feel we have achieved a lot. Getting 740 members within 6 months is an achievement to me. This is an achievement towards our mission. We are on the road to turning the tide against HIV/AIDS through ICT."
-Richard Magerenge, EK's Executive Director

and lots more.




Beth Noveck, a major contributor to Open Government, returns to teaching law

800px-BethNoveckJI1 Hey, Open Government covers a lot of ground; it's about how a democratic government gets the job done increasingly well. That's been a big challenge in an environment where there had been no incentive for gov't workers to provide good customer/citizen service.

Open government includes disclosure of what's going on inside government, where the money goes, really tough getting there having started from a culture of secrecy. Beth's work, along with a very strong team including Aneesh Chopra and Vivek Kundra, has disclosed a lot. Check out what's on (Disclosure: I'm on the board of Sunlight Foundation, for real the leaders in transparency and accountability, and I've seen how hard it is to get real data.)

This new trend in government also means listening to citizens and government workers to get things done better. The Department of Veterans Affairs has embraced this, listening to employees, and has started to considerable improve customer service for veterans. Specifically, that includes improved claims processing, online chat to help filling in claims forms, easy access to electronic health records, and specific process improvements like calculating benefits for hearing loss. (Disclosure: I'm on the board of the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, and have worked with the VA on the employee ideation process.)

Here, Beth's also working with a strong team, like Peter Levin, VA CTO, and Todd Park, HHS CTO.

A lot more's happening, particularly involving better customer service through multiple agencies. Me, I'm a nerd, an alien in Washington culture, but I can really appreciate how much Beth and others have accomplished in an environment which resists change.

Beth has been one of the core people inspiring Open Government and related improvements all over the US and beyond. She continues to do, and is playing a genuinely historic role, that including blogging like Turning Rule Writers Into Problem Solvers: Creating a 21st Century Government That's Open and Competent by Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.

90px-CC_some_rights_reserved.svg Photo by Joi Ito.

VA Improves Services Through Employee Innovation

Vet.hearing A principle of Open Government is that workers can build solutions to real problems and get the attention of top management.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been doing a lot of this recently, providing better customer service for Vets, and providing better return for the taxpayer dollar.

We have a new example of that, where a VA employee, Renford Patch, wrote some software which helps determine if a Vet has hearing loss, how much loss, and feeds that into the claims process. It greatly simplifies and accelerates what was a complicated paper process.

This kind of thing is fairly novel in Washington, but we’re seeing it starting to happen a lot there, particularly in those areas which have embraced Open Government. I’ll try to surface more examples of this.

For more information regarding this example, check out a VA employee-developed hearing loss calculator that has 100 percent accuracy.

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