The Department of Veteran Affairs doesn't get the recognition it deserves. It's really working hard to help vets. As the official VA Nerd-in-Residence, I'd like to begin 2014 by reminding folks of a few of the VA's efforts.
- The VA is doing more and more to give homeless vets a hand. The move is part of the larger government-wide effort to end veterans homelessness in the next two years, and comes at a time when most federal programs are tightening their belts in an effort to deal with sharp reductions in funding. More on the homelessness efforts here and on the VA site here.
- For disability compensation, they've deployed something like TurboTax for veterans. It appears to be decently user-friendly, adjusted for the way that vets and veteran service orgs (VSOs) really operate. The software also accounts for all the laws and regulations, the rules that VA has gotta follow to write checks. A vet would start up eBenefits, online, click on "Apply for Disability Compensation" and go. It's mostly drop-down menus, and many data fields get filled in automatically. It's way easier and faster than paper forms. (More about self-service for disability claims processing here... and here.)
- The VBA workers are doing a whole lot for vets. Most of the workers are on the VA medical side, but there's also a group that processes benefits payments for vets. That's the Veterans Benefits Administration -- VBA -- and it works on more than a million disability claims from vets each year. They deserve a lot more thanks than they're getting.
- VBMS development involved a lot of waterfall stuff, but much more recently, VA people are actually directly listening to people on that and acting on that. If vets, VSOs, or VA workers find a problem or have a suggestion, they contact contact actual humans to get stuff done. (A little more on my big idea for 2014 and how to fix Washington's approach to tech...)
- They've been working hard to get the paper claims inventory converted to digits and put into VBMS, which involves scanning huge amounts of paper into the system. That's about 80 percent done. (You can view before and after photos here.)
What do you appreciate about the VA? And what are you hoping they'll begin to work on in 2014?
A nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.