VA encourages employees to use social media

Tuesday - 8/16/2011, 1:00pm EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The Department of Veterans Affairs' social media policy encourages VA employees to adopt Web-based collaboration tools.

"To increase accountability, promote informed participation by the public, and create economic opportunity, the presumption shall be in favor of openness," according to the policy.

VA has more than 100 Facebook pages, 50 Twitter feeds and two blogs, according to a VA release. By the end of this year, the department expects to have a Facebook page and Twitter feed for all 152 medical centers, the release stated.

"Veterans should have consistent and convenient access to reliable VA information real-time using social media - whether on a smartphone or a computer," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki in statement. "They also should be able to communicate directly with appropriate VA employees electronically."

Employees should use "sound judgment" when using social media, according to the policy.

The policy acknowledges the line between an employee's freedom of speech and the responsibility of representing the agency.

"When interacting with the public online, VA employees must draw a clear distinction between their personal views and their professional duties," according to the policy. "Employees who are not officially authorized to speak on behalf of VA must never state or infer their communications represent VA's official position."

If social media use intrudes on someone's work, managers can limit or block access to sites for a particular department.

The VA's Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs approves employee use of social media sites.

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