With COVID-19 confirmed worldwide and increasing every day, the Northrop Grumman team supporting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been w...
Supporting Social Security Field Offices Through COVID-19
Ordinarily, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) headquarters and its more than 1,200 field offices across the country, are visited daily by thousands of citizens either in person, or by phone, seeking assistance with supplemental income and health and disability insurance. These services are critical, and for many of the nation’s elderly and disabled the SSA is a lifeline.
Four years ago, a Northrop Grumman team began working with the SSA on a project to allow field office workers the opportunity to telework one or two days per week using a softphone, or having access to their phone lines through their computers. Workers would be able to safely and effectively respond to calls from the public and their colleagues via their computer.
The project had rolled out to nearly half of the field office workforce, about 28,000 employees, however policy changes at the SSA had slowed down any further expansion.
That changed with the rapid spread of COVID-19.
With SSA facilities closing in response to the coronavirus pandemic, there was suddenly an immediate need for all 50,000+ SSA field office employees to have softphone access.
During a marathon multiday session beginning March 13, a team of 16 Northrop Grumman employees who support the SSA on the Information Technology Support Services Contract (ITSSC2), sorted through databases to identify the SSA employees who were not set up with softphones. More than 30,000 names were identified and given to the SSA’s Division of Integrated Telecommunications Management (DITM). Plans were immediately put in place to accelerate the softphone rollout.
“Compiling those names was no small feat and involved our team sorting through government directories listed in Excel spreadsheets,” said Tim Feeser, a project manager who led the identification effort.
“The field offices aren’t always able to keep numbers up to date and accurate. We dumped all the data, validated it and sorted it.”
Within five days, the project to identify names and provide softphone access was complete. The softphone not only ensures clear lines of communication, it also creates a sense of trust between the public and government workers. When a customer calls the 800 number for their field office, it gets routed to the appropriate SSA person, regardless of where they are. And when SSA employees need to make calls they maintain the anonymity of using a government phone number rather than a personal phone number.
“It’s an area the agency had a dire need for right now and we had the resources to solve the problem,” said Tim.
Stephen Esmacher, a manger supporting the SSA, stepped in and sorted through directories for Boston and Philadelphia after receiving a request from Tim. “We ensured that people who needed to do their work could do it at home,” Stephen said.
For the public, particularly the nation’s elderly and disabled, this work ensures the Woodlawn, Maryland, based agency can continue to field calls and requests.
“There has been no break in this critical support,” said Tim “The customer is extremely impressed and over the moon for what we were able to provide them in such a very short time.”