Veterans will soon be able to log in to just one website to manage their benefits, apply for doctors' appointments, and determine their eligibility for programs.
Tom Allin, the first chief veterans experience officer at the Veterans Affairs Department, said in an interview with Federal Times the website will go live around May 20, but will first be open to around 50 veterans to help beta test the navigation, fonts and organization of the new portal.
By the end of the year, all veterans will be able to use Veterans.gov to manage more than 350 benefit programs without having to switch websites, call multiple numbers or file large amounts of redundant paperwork.
The goal? A single unified digital experience that makes it easier for veterans to get the benefits they deserve, according to Allin.
The Veterans Affairs Department, still reeling from a scandal that showed some employees were manipulating patient wait lists in order to improve performance measures, has been pushing to improve customer service under the current VA secretary Bob McDonald. Allin is spearheading many of the customer service issues that veterans deal with every day.
"The two biggest initiatives that I am focused on right now is to try to make everything we do more consistent and number two, make it easier," Allin said.
Once veterans register, the website will automatically know their eligibility levels for different programs and will tailor their experience using that information, according to Allin. The website will also notify the veteran of various programs they are eligible for but are not using.
"The goal will be that veterans will eventually be able to get everything taken care of online with a single sign on. They will be able to add a dependent, change their address, schedule an appointment or check on their claim status and get everything done online in a seamless way versus what they are doing today across multiple websites," Allin said.
While the website will begin as a "wireframe" the VA will add new functions to it monthly, until they have a working model that serves veterans in an easy-to-understand and streamlined way, Allin said.
The VA is integrating more than 200 different databases across the agency in order to gather information related to military service, contract information, demographics and how they are currently using VA services in order to make sure the agency at every level has the information they need to provide good customer service, Allin said.
The VA is also working on consolidating what Allin said were more than 1,000 hotlines available to veterans across the agency. Instead, veterans will just call one phone number, and the person answering will have access to all the information they need to help.
If a veteran requires special assistance, they will simply be transferred to someone who can help them, instead of requiring veterans to call a different number, Allin said.
"My goal is that we have some visible changes in the next three months. And I am sure that some of the initiatives that we have will have a significant impact on the veterans," Allin said.