Deliver exceptional customer service by reinvigorating partnerships with VA business lines to understand customer needs, prioritize business problems, and deliver IT solutions based on human-centered design and product management, culminating in a world-class Veteran experience.
National Cemetery Administration Debuts the Veterans Legacy Memorial
The Department of Veterans Affairs is making it easier for loved ones to find gravesites, digitally update burial plot information, and connect online with Veteran communities. A new digital platform called Veterans Legacy Memorial (VLM) that showcases service histories, biographical highlights, and military awards of deceased Veterans debuted in May 2019 from VA’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA).
VLM is an interactive digital application accessible via smartphones or other devices that features user-friendly information hosted securely in the cloud. Designed to empower and engage family members and friends of deceased service members, VLM helps users build communities in a virtual environment by sharing photos, stories, and information about their loved ones. “For the first time, we’re giving voice to family members as to how their Veterans are memorialized,” said Dr. Bryce Carpenter, Program Director, Veterans Legacy Program. The Veterans Legacy Program is an NCA effort partnering with universities and student volunteers to record deceased service members’ histories and served as a foundation for the VLM, said Dr. Carpenter. Developed in collaboration between NCA and OIT’s Enterprise Program Management Office, VLM has architecture and functionality built by third-party companies specializing in cloud infrastructure, and principles and protocols of user experience and human-centered design.
The project is part of VA’s IT and Digital Modernization program and aligns with the President’s Management Agenda. Dr. Carpenter and other developers of VLM will be monitoring user experiences, adding new features, and making necessary adjustments to functionality as more capabilities are incorporated.
Dr. Carpenter said he is eager to begin receiving user feedback as the platform rolls out to all NCA’s sites over the next several months.
“We’re excited and honored to have developed VLM. It will greatly enhance the cemetery experience,” said Dr. Carpenter. “We can eventually import the stories of Veterans to homes, classrooms, and wherever family members and friends are found.”
The Joint Business Plan — A Pathway to Success
VA’s singular mission is to uphold President Lincoln’s promise: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” To fulfill this obligation requires collaboration and coordination between the Department’s operating units and OIT. The OIT Account Management Office (AMO) is the linchpin between these organizations, charged with identifying investment opportunities to improve the Veteran experience.
As the face of OIT for VA’s business partner administrations and offices, AMO strives to be a strategic partner and trusted advisor, working closely with business partners to determine the activities OIT should support. One of AMO’s key objectives is creating Joint Business Plans to collaborate on mutual business partner expectations, help find the critical funding for the agreed-upon initiatives, and track them until completion.
This document is AMO’s prime artifact to build trust, teamwork, and transparency with OIT’s business partners. It provides an integrated approach between OIT and the administrations, allowing for the alignment of goals, resources, and objectives to achieve targeted business outcomes. With a constant flow of moving parts across the entire VA enterprise, Joint Business Plans seek to organize the administrations’ top priorities, show what can be accomplished with current funding, and keep a level of accountability that serves our Veterans just as President Lincoln set out to do.
Cross-Agency Collaboration and Human-Centered Design Are Keys to the New Digital Disability Compensation Claim Tool
Filling out long paper forms can be a tedious, frustrating experience. That’s why VA is continually looking to streamline processes for Veterans who apply for benefits. In March, VA rolled out an online Disability Compensation Claim Tool to make it more efficient for Veterans to submit disability claims. The tool is the digital front end that automatically populates a complex, 12-page form so that Veterans and their representatives don’t have to do it manually.
In its first month alone, Veterans submitted 3,000 benefits compensation claims using the new tool.
This tool isn’t just a digital version of the paper form, either—it implements several new features to improve the Veteran’s experience, such as establishing an Intent-to- File date, asking user-friendly questions, automatically populating user answers into correct sections on the claims form, and shortening the overall claims adjudication. Most importantly, the Disability Compensation Claim Tool was created using human-centered design principles, with developers consulting Veterans at every step of the design process. By employing this methodology, developers can continue to tweak the tool to create the best possible experience for Veterans.
Since the tool’s launch, overall processing time has been reduced by half. Before, the average disability claims processing time was somewhere between 108 and 120 days and could vary widely. Now, thanks to the Disability Compensation Claims tool, claims processing times are an average of just 63 days.
VHA and OIT Partnership Leverages Provider Data to Improve Veteran Care
Through innovations like the VA MISSION Act, VA has been focused on providing Veterans with greater choice in selecting their health care providers. But we can’t do it alone—and that’s why the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and OIT closely collaborated to develop and launch the Provider Profile Management System (PPMS). As one of the many systems involved with successful MISSION implementation, PPMS helps VA employees give Veterans better access to available providers at VA medical centers and partnering community health providers.
Thanks to the close VHA-OIT partnership, this tool is revolutionizing the ways OIT and VA collect, store, and utilize provider data internally and within the external health care network, and this translates to enhanced customer service to Veterans. PPMS hosts information on providers and facilities that network with VA and makes the data available to VA employees, applications, and the internal systems and tools that power the resources Veterans use to manage their care.
The data includes contact information of providers, their specialties and credentials, locations at which they offer care, and their affiliations to VA and other providers or organizations. PPMS also shows the relationships each provider has to VA and other providers. It is seamlessly interoperable with VA’s other tools, systems, and applications that require provider information, and acts as the main hub through which these resources can gather and report provider data.
Thanks to OIT’s partnership with VHA and the successful implementation of the first requirements of MISSION Act, Veterans can have greater control over their health care and where they choose to receive it.
VBA Exceeds Independence Day Challenge Goal
2019’s Independence Day weekend marked the 243rd birthday of the United States of America — and it also marked a monumental week in which Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) broke a record for Veterans claims. To close out the VBA Independence Day Veterans Challenge in time for Independence Day, VBA completed over 260,000 claims in just eight weeks, significantly beating their goal to complete 255,000 Veterans claims by June 30.
Throughout the challenge, OIT supported VBA as our partners achieved their goal. We worked aggressively to track down IT issues and swiftly implement solutions, including applying popular social media tagging methods to IT help desk tickets. VA staff tagged tickets with the #VBACLAIMS hashtag to identify and resolve high-priority issues.
Working #VBACLAIMS continues to be a priority for OIT as we support our business partners. Doing our best to ensure IT systems and services are working properly for claims specialists means our VBA business partners can continue to be successful every day, all year.