Social media is a vital part of VA’s efforts to better communicate with Veterans by providing important and up-to-date information while receiving real-time feedback, improving transparency and encouraging public engagement.
This policy is designed to aid agency users in understanding and adhering to properly using and protecting Government equipment when conducting social media activities.
Social media tools enable widely dispersed facilities and VA staff to more effectively share information with Service members, Veterans, caregivers, Veteran Service Organizations (VSO), and survivors.
VA use of social media platforms will change as technology evolves. These guidelines cover social media platforms including (but not limited to):
- Social Networking Sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Blogs (including VA official use and non-official or personal use blogs, as well as comments)
- Video and Photo Sharing Websites (Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, etc.)
- Forums and Discussion Boards (non-official and personal use of Slack, Discord, etc.)
- XML and RSS Feeds
- Ideation Programs (IdeaScale, IdeaFactory, etc.)
- Online Information Repositories and Encyclopedias for both official use (e.g., Max.gov) and nonofficial or personal use (e.g., Wikipedia)
- Emerging or new technology identified as social media by General Services Administration’s DigitalGov.gov website to help Government workers deliver a better customer experience to citizens.
To establish an official VA social media account, the petitioning office, employee, or organization will demonstrate:
- A business case for the site,
- Adequate resources are available to establish and maintain the site, and
- The organization’s previously established website is also kept up-to-date and meets VA quality standards. The Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA) is the final approving authority for all VA social media sites, except those of the Office of the Inspector General, which is exempt from this oversight and control per the Inspector General Act, 5 U.S.C. App. 3. However, OPIA may delegate approval or disapproval to administration communications offices after coordinating with those offices to ensure the content standards maintenance.
- Receive approval from OPIA before creating any new social media presence.
VA employees will take appropriate action on public submissions that contain vulgar language, personal attacks of any kind, offensive comments, libel, sensitive data and other inappropriate content as well as comments that:
- Are spam;
- Are clearly off topic;
- Advocate illegal activity;
- Promote particular services, products, or political organizations;
- Infringe on copyrights or trademarks;
- Contain unauthorized release of VA Sensitive Data; or
Appropriate action may include hiding or deleting content that contain such language. Threats may be referred to VA Police, self-harm talk or ideation may referred to the Veterans Crisis Line, others may be referred to the Veterans Experience Office or the appropriate VA Office. VA employees taking appropriate action must use discretion when taking this action.
A complete listing of actions taken will be maintained on the applicable social media website.
Coordinators and Moderators will resolve valid complaints received on social media accounts. If complaints cannot be resolved directly by coordinators or moderators, they will be elevated to the appropriate organization for resolution.
- Veterans Health Administration Digital Media (VHA Only)
- Veterans Benefits Administration Web Communications Office (VBA Only)
- National Cemetery Administration Web Communications (NCA Only)
- Office of Information and Technology (OIT Only)
- Office of Public Affairs Digital Media Engagement (for all VA Central Office locations excluding those listed above)
VA Social Medial Content Coordinators will ensure all social media sites under their responsibility contain a link to the “VA Social Networking Disclaimer”
VA pages or sites will alert visitors of any link leading to a third-party website or other location that is not part of an official government domain. This alert can be a statement adjacent to the link or a pop-up explaining (a) the visitor is being directed to a nongovernment website and (b) the website may have privacy policies that differ from VA.
- VAntage Point Submission Instructions
- VAntage Point Style Guide
- Office of Government Ethics Guidance related to federal employee’s personal use of social media.
Digital Media Collaboration Tools. Digital Collaboration tools are web-based tools and applications used to connect a group of users to complete work or training by allowing them to engage in dialogue, share information, and interact. The key difference between Social Media and Digital Collaboration tools is that social media’s primary function is communication, whereas digital collaboration is used as a virtual work environment. Examples of collaboration tools include SharePoint, Teams, WebEx, Zoom, Slack, and Trello.
Additional digital communication channels can help you reach a broader audience and engage citizens. The resources below will help you strategically use additional online channels to reach your communication goals.
- VAntage Point Submission Instructions
- Office of Government Ethics Guidance related to Federal employee’s personal use of social media
- DigitalGov.gov Social Media Community of Practice
Social Media Office Recommendations
All VA social media team members are recommended to complete the tasks outlined below:
- VA Contractor Rules of Behavior signed
- VA Declaration for Federal Employment signed
- VA Content Writing Guide reviewed
- VA Graphic Design Standard reviewed [VA only]
- VA Directive 6515 Use of Web-based Collaboration Technologies reviewed
- VA Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPAA) training completed
- VA Personal Identifiable Information (PII) training completed
Copies of training certifications should be submitted to any VA supervisor overseeing a Department’s social networking account for information assurance and compliance.
VA organizations with social media capabilities should have the following government employees in place to provide adequate oversight for organizational social media activities.
- Communication Director or senior Public Affairs Officer
- Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) (as needed)
- VA Legal Counsel
The following is the recommended Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions to successfully carry out social media office daily operations to support a large organization. Contract resources should be a secondary option with government personnel providing strict oversight. Suggested staffing:
- Social Media Manager (1)
- Content Developer (1)
- Creative Media Team (1-4); Graphic Designer, Photographer, and Videographer