The nation is facing a once-in-a-100-years pandemic, and as part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Fourth Mission, VA is now assisting local health care networks in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, following social distancing guidelines, a large portion of VA staff began working remotely in March.
The Office of Information and Technology (OIT) mobilized to address this immense and sudden demand for remote access capabilities. Prior to COVID-19, remote access user connections of all types numbered around 156,000 across VA. IT Operations and Services (ITOPS) set out to expand the network to enable a seamless and secure transition to a remote-first workforce as COVID-19 cases grew exponentially across the country.
Taking an all-hands-on-deck approach, OIT doubled the available network bandwidth in record time, compressing months of work to under two weeks. The strengthened network ensured the large number of first-time remote users could easily and quickly access their workstations to support VA’s COVID-19 response. Remote access is granted through two methods which OIT upscaled to meet VA demand. Daily RESCUE Virtual Private Network (VPN) accounts that ensure secure access to VA systems were doubled to encompass over 240,000 users and is on track to expand to 500,000.
Citrix Access Gateway (CAG) accounts were also increased by 4,000 and is scheduled to grow by a further 110,000, allowing VA employees to securely work from their own PCs, Macs, or tablets. Working from home for the first time, Priya Patel, a pyschometrist in North Carolina, marveled that “the experience was as similar and as fast as actually working on my VA desktop at the hospital.” By utilizing OIT’s strong and stable network, VHA has around 18,0000 telehealth visits per day—a nearly eight-fold increase over pre-COVID-19 capacity.
Additionally, during VA’s pivot to remote work, these network upgrades helped VBA achieve an incredible feat—processing 10-15% more claims than average. As VA staff continue to provide care and benefits during this fight against COVID-19, VA’s Office of Information and Technology is committed to not only ensuring all staff have the IT resources they need, but also to rapidly improving, optimizing, and adding technologies that will bring new capabilities to VA’s mission post-COVID-19 and beyond.
Our commitment to digital and IT transformation is shaped by daily dedication to customer service and the close collaboration of our workforce, managers, and leaders. Ready to join us in improving Veterans’ care? Check out all current information and technology career opportunities on DigitalVA. You can also contact VA’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer at 512-326-6600, Monday thru Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST or by submitting a resume to VACareers@va.gov.