In an effort to help break down long-perceived barriers between the Department of Veterans Affairs and its stakeholders, the VA announced that it has established Facebook pages for all 152 of its medical centers. By leveraging Facebook, the department hopes to continue expanding access to the VA and embrace transparency and two-way conversation.
The VA established a presence on Facebook in 2008 with a single Veterans Health Administration page. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki explained, "Veterans and their families told us from the beginning that they want to engage, and they want relevant information delivered at the local level.” So in June 2011, the VA outlined a department-wide social media policy that provided guidelines for communicating with Veterans Affairs online.
VA health care providers cannot discuss an individual's specific health concerns on Facebook, but they can use the site to provide information to veterans. The staff closely monitor the VA's social media sites, and it has been reported that in the last year VA's Crisis Line counselors have successfully intervened on Facebook in cases where veterans have suggested suicidal thoughts or other emotional crises.
The department now has:
- More than 150 Facebook pages
- 64 Twitter feeds
- A YouTube channel
- A Flickr photo page
- The "VAntage Point" blog
VA currently has more than 345,000 combined fans. The Department's main Facebook page has more than 154,000 fans, and its medical centers have a combined subscribership of over 69,000.
VA officials say they plan to continue expanding the agency's Facebook presence and focus on setting up a Twitter feed for every VA medical center.
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