Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) assists Servicemembers, Veterans and/or eligible family members with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job-seeking. When VR&E wanted to offer Veterans more flexibility in how they communicate with VR&E and improve operating efficiency, it partnered with the Office of Information and Technology (OIT) and the Office of Business Process Integration (OBPI). Together, they will soon introduce e-VA, the first large-scale artificial intelligence (AI) tool in the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
e-VA stands for Electronic Virtual Assistant. e-VA is powered by a commercial software product called Semi-Autonomous Research Assistant (SARA), which is like the technology widely used in the banking and hospitality industries.
Veterans who prefer to use text messages or email to communicate with VR&E can use e-VA to get answers to basic questions, schedule and reschedule appointments, and receive reminders. They can also easily use their mobile phone to scan and upload documents needed by their VR&E counselor.
In addition to offering Veterans greater convenience, e-VA will save VR&E counselors approximately 34,000 hours each year.
Kevin Scott, Assistant Director of Operations, VR&E, VBA Central Office, said, “We conducted a time study of how our counselors were spending time annually across small, medium, and large facilities. We found that a large part of their workload was scheduling and rescheduling appointments. Thanks to e-VA, we can reinvest counselors’ time into additional counseling activities to continue to improve services to Veterans.”
By purchasing SARA as a cloud-based Software as a Service rather than developing the capability from scratch, OIT was able to save money and make it accessible to Veterans sooner.
VA expects to release e-VA at the end of the 2019 fiscal year.
OIT will continue to collaborate with VR&E and other partners within VBA to provide innovative solutions like e-VA that meet Veteran and stakeholder needs today and better prepare VA to respond to future needs.
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.