A Social Security Administration (SSA) representative conducted live office hours Monday via a computer terminal in a small private room at the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging (OBCA). During the first hour of operation, five people who might have previously spent hours on the phone or had to travel to the nearest office in Falmouth were able to conduct business successfully.
The video service delivery (VSD) terminal is designed to fill a gap created when the agency eliminated monthly visits to the Island in January 2011.
Individuals using the VSD can speak to and conduct SSA business with an agency employee on the mainland in real time, eliminating the need to travel to the Falmouth.
“It’s as if you are in the same room with the representative,” said Rose Cogliano, OBCA assistant director.
Ms. Cogliano had prepared a table of donuts and coffee to greet the expected visitors. “It couldn’t be easier,” she said. “You don’t have to know how to use a computer or even push any buttons. All you have to do is talk.”
She said the service is offered on a first-come, first-served basis and coffee and refreshments will be available for those who have to wait.
The new service began on Monday and will be available on the last Monday of each month from 9 am to 12 noon. The OBCA doors open at 8:30 am.
People wishing to meet with the online representative are asked to sign in before being directed to a small private room where a social security representative from the Falmouth office can be seen sitting at a desk on the live monitor. For the three hours the service is available each month the representative does nothing other than assist online clients from the OBCA office. The service is available on Nantucket on a different day of the month.
While new to the Vineyard, the remote terminal service is not new to social security. The Falmouth office has used it to handle work overflow from the New Bedford office.
In an earlier conversation with The Times, Stephen Richardson, SSA deputy regional communications director, said that Vineyarders who wish to conduct business by other means still have the other service delivery options available to them, including visiting any mainland office.
“Our telephone and online services offer easy access to our programs. In fact, the public can apply for all benefits by calling 800-772-1213 or by visiting socialsecurity.gov,” he said.
The Oak Bluffs Council on Aging is located at 24 Wamsutta Avenue, Oak Bluffs. To contact the OBCA call 508-693-4509.