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3/11/2011
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SSA Gets Kudos For Online Claims Application

According to an Inspector General report, 198 of 200 applicants polled said their experience filing retirement benefits on the Web was good or better.

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The Social Security Administration's (SSA) investment in bolstering the services it offers online seems to be paying off. A recent auditors' report praised the agency for its iClaim application, which allows people to file for Social Security benefits online.

The agency's Inspector General conducted an interview of 200 people who applied for Social Security benefits through iClaim in May 2010. Out of those, 198 said that their experiencing filing for claims online was either "excellent," "very good," or "good," with half of those, or 99 respondents, rating the experience an excellent one, according to the report.

Those applying for benefits are people who did not grow up using the Internet, so their ability to use iClaim with ease speaks to how well it's been developed to be user friendly, according to the report.

Most of the applicants polled found iClaim generally easy to navigate, with 132 of them, or 66%, characterizing it as "very easy"; 61, or 30.5%, saying it was "somewhat easy"; and seven, or 3.5%, finding it "somewhat hard," according to the report.

Generally applicants polled also said they also understood the questions asked of them in the application the service uses, as well as the instructions for submitting documentation to the SSA.

Some applicants said that the SSA also was responsive if the agency needed more information or clarification about an iClaim application, contacting them to follow up.

The SSA has been in the process of shifting what services it can online, an effort that is expected to save the agency millions yearly. The move also supports the Obama administration's Open Government Directive, a key tenet of which is better online engagement with the people federal agencies serve.

Of the 2.48 million retirement applications filled out with the agency in fiscal 2010, 37% were submitted online, but eventually the SSA wants to receive 90% of retirement benefits applications via the Web, it's said. The agency has set an incremental goal of 50% filing through iClaim by 2012, according to the IG report.

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