virtual assistance

SSA seeks virtual assistants to help with boomer retirements

Every day 10,000 U.S. residents turn 65, and by 2030, one in five U.S. residents will be retirement age, according to the Census Bureau. Most will want to talk to someone at the Social Security Administration.

Currently, potential retirees ask questions of SSA representatives over the phone or at a local office, both of which required a significant time investment by agency staff.  The growing number of potential retirees combined with Americans' increasing preference for quick online responses has presented challenges to SSA's customer service model.

To modernize its customer service operations and ease the workload on an already-overtaxed staff, the agency wants to implement an off-the-shelf virtual assistant solution.

In a recent solicitation, SSA said it is looking for virtual assistant customer service support software that incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning to allow for conversational interactions with clients and deliver a better self-service experience.

To start, SSA wants to use the virtual assistant with the Benefit Eligibility Center within the “my Social Security” portal to help applicants understand their options regarding the best month to file for retirement. Through conversational interactions, the virtual assistant would help online retirement applicants understand their options.

SSA said it does not plan to develop new software for the virtual assistant, and instead wants to procure an enterprise solution that has been successfully deployed by multiple organizations for at least three years.

The solution must be compliant with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program and run in the Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure Virtual Private Cloud instances that are part of SSA’s cloud infrastructure.  It must also integrate with multiple SSA systems, sit behind the SSA firewall and deliver services across text, voice, mobile and video channels.  The winning solution will interface with backend agency systems to pull relevant data, with SSA providing RESTful web services that will allow for access to these systems and their data.

The system must remember user and human agent actions and the context of conversations so it can participate in multiple and complex conversation flows and leverage captured information to refine future responses to other users.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.


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