Fall 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.

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 allows Veterans to use one login that meets current NIST security standards and optimizes Veteran self-service and automation through improved design, mobile responsiveness, ease of use, and plain language. Since the initial launch, DSVA has continuously iterated on the site through 50 product launches and reduced product release cycles from 90 days to one week. More than 600,000 applications for healthcare and education benefits have been submitted online through Vets.gov.

Update

DSVA continues to support VA’s goals of improving the digital delivery of Veterans’ benefits and services by releasing new functionality each month, including updating popular features like Claims Status.

New launches include:

  • Appeal Status: if a Veteran disagrees with VA’s decision on their claim, they can file an appeal and track its status through the new Appeal Status tool on Vets.gov.
  • Save-in-Progress: this functionality allows a Veteran to save a form that they are working on while it is in progress, and return to Vets.gov later to complete it.
  • Post-9/11 GI Bill Statement of Benefits: this tool enables Veterans to find out how much money they have left to pay for school or training.

A recently released DSVA improvement to the site’s login demonstrates how simplifying digital processes can have a positive impact on Veterans. By launching an improved sign up and sign in flow and adding the Department of Defense’s DS Logon Premium credential, we have increased access to the modern tools emerging to help Veterans access their benefits and services. DS Logon is a popular credential used by many current and former servicemembers and Veterans to log into various accounts. By adding the DS Logon credential, even more Veterans can now securely log into Vets.gov. These improvements to the login process now enable premium DS Logon users to authenticate their information only once, allowing them to move seamlessly through multiple platforms.

Since the login improvements, the number of users accessing features on Vets.gov has increased threefold, and the number of users signing in overall has doubled since August 2017. We are working on incorporating the second most utilized VA premium credential, My Health_e_Vet Premium, to this service in 2018. With these easy-to-use features available to more Veterans, we expect traffic in 2018 to organically double to two million monthly unique users.

Retiring Old, Legacy Systems

The VONAPP website was successfully retired in November 2017, saving VA $256,872 per year (per the FY18 service agreement). It was originally launched in 2001 with nine forms for education, pension, burial, and vocational rehabilitation benefits. System issues included:

  • Outdated interface design that was difficult to use
  • Critical security issues
  • Inability to work on a mobile phone

VONAPP features and content have been modernized, redesigned, tested by Veterans, and launched on Vets.gov.

Impact

  • 302K Vets applying for health benefits via Vets.gov
  • 323K Vets applying for education benefits via Vets.gov

This project was previously chronicled in our July 2017 Report to Congress.

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