SSA to offer its pamphlets online

SSA to offer its pamphlets online

SSA's Gary Orem and Harold Brittingham say the new system will reduce paperwork.

The Social Security Administration plans to start an online service for ordering free pamphlets and forms from its three warehouses.

By Sept. 30, the administration will test a prototype application on its Web site, said Gary Orem, a computer specialist at SSA's Supply and Warehouse Management Office.

'Any organization which has a legitimate need, even funeral homes, or people who need a specific form, will be able to get it online,' said Harold Brittingham, director of the office.

The agency's pamphlets contain information about programs such as disability and supplemental security income. Forms include work history reports, claimant's statements and reconsideration disability reports.

The Web site will sport a shopping cart for users, who will be able to add items to the cart and check out, Orem said. Once a shopper checks out, the items will be electronically submitted to the Supply and Warehouse Management Office to fill the order.

'The order processing is totally paperless, which improves our response time,' he said.

Users will not need user IDs or passwords, Orem said, adding that they will be required to fill out shipping information once they have finished shopping.

'We will invoke maximum quantity order limits to ensure that someone doesn't mistakenly order too much,' he said.

SSA awarded a $60,000 contract to Radio Beacon of Toronto, a warehouse management systems provider, for the project.

Inventory check

The project is part of the agency's $634,000 contract to Intermec Technologies of Everett, Wash.

Under the contract, awarded in 1997, Intermec and subcontractor Radio Beacon have consolidated SSA's warehouse operations and inventory and are working to improve order processing.

The agency equipped its three warehouses, all of which are in Baltimore, with Radio Beacon 3.3, a program that runs under Microsoft Windows and can tap three databases: Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle8i and Advantage Database Server from Extended Systems of Boise, Idaho. SSA uses Advantage Database Version 5.7. The warehouses tap the central database located at the main warehouse via LAN connections.

The ordering application resides on the main database server, a Compaq ProLiant 5000, which runs the warehouse processes.

The three warehouses also use 60 Janus 2020 and 2010 handheld devices from Intermec and 10 Intermec 3400 thermal printers.

The application is written largely in Java, Microsoft Transact and XBase++, a 32-bit SQL database language, said Dale Jeffries, president of Radio Beacon.

Using the current system, SSA's warehouses accommodate requests for items from 3,330 federal offices, including 1,100 overseas.

Each office is assigned a user ID and a password. When one requests a form or publication, the system checks whether the office is authorized to receive it and displays what's in stock.

Once the order is filled, the system e-mails a Web hyperlink to the recipient that lets the user track the order online in real time, Orem said. 'Previously, the offices would not know for weeks if they would receive what they requested,' he said.

The system has helped eliminate order backlogs, Brittingham said.

Order processing time has been cut from 30 days to three days. Emergency order processing time went from a week to one day. Receiving time has dropped from five days to one day, and response to customer inquiries has been reduced from two days to minutes.

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