July 2017 Report to Congress

Simplifying Veteran-facing Services through Vets.gov

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

The Challenge

Digital services offered by VA — from obtaining prescription refills to applying for healthcare benefits — are scattered across hundreds of public-facing websites. This forces veterans to navigate disparate online systems, remember multiple usernames and passwords, and contend with long pages of legalese. To complicate matters, the majority of the 532 online VA forms are fillable PDFs that are not accessible with modern browsers. High demand features are accessible only 76% of the time, compared with the industry standard of 99.99%. Many services are still accessed using paper applications, including 90% of health care applications and 86% of claims. VA call centers receive 65 million calls a year.

The Solution

The Digital Service team at VA (DSVA) launched Vets.gov in November 2015 to streamline a veteran’s experience to discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits they have earned in one place using any device. Vets.gov has one login that meets current NIST security standards, is mobile-responsive, and optimizes veteran self-service and automation through improved design, increased ease-of-use, and plain language. Since the initial launch, the team has iterated on the site through 50 continuous product launches and reduced release cycle times of 7 days compared to the previous 90 days.

Update

Since November of 2016, the team has launched eleven new products, including a check claim status tool, an education benefits application, and enhancements to a GI bill comparison tool, which enables veterans to compare GI benefits across schools and easily apply for or transfer benefits online. The DSVA team is continuously adding new capabilities to Vets.gov, using direct feedback from veterans to ensure ease of use.

In addition to being able to check claim status on Vets.gov, by this summer, veterans will be able to download health records and check appeals status online.

This project was previously chronicled in our 2016 Report to Congress.

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