MA

A Look at VA’s 2021 IT Accomplishments

Published: January 12, 2022

Federal Market AnalysisInformation TechnologyVA

VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) recently released a 2021 Year in Review, which summarizes the organization’s 2021 accomplishments and gives a glimpse at its 2022 plans.

In late December, VA OI&T released its annual Year in Review report describing VA’s journey towards digital transformation in the last year along with a short preview of its plans for the current year.

OI&T by the Numbers (according to the report):

  • 8,000 full-time employees
  • Approximately 48.7% are veterans
  • 360,000 service desk tickets per month
  • 1.2 million devices on VA’s network
  • 276,000 laptops on VA’s network
  • 264,000 desktops on VA’s network
  • Over 700 VA systems and applications
  • 7.5 petabytes of data

Information technology (IT) is imperative to fulfilling VA’s mission of serving veterans and providing the workforce with tools necessary to accomplish their jobs. Through digital transformation spearheaded by O&IT, IT is changing and modernizing how VA delivers services and healthcare. The office is upgrading VA’s IT tools and systems, and providing a modern digital interface for both veterans and VA employees.

VA OI&T is using what it calls a “4-5-6” framework for digital transformation. The framework includes four guiding principles for how to accomplish the work, five strategic goals for transformation, and six focus areas to help integrate and direct product design and solution development.

The report provides examples of OI&T 2021 accomplishments for each strategic goal:

Exceptional Customer Service

  • Making It Easier for Veterans to Find What They Need Online - To better engage and serve veterans, OI&T launched a redesigned the ‘My VA’ customer dashboard on VA.gov. Because of this work, VA received a four-point increase in its Net Promoter score in FY 2021, from 29 to 33.
  • Automating Pension Claims So Veterans Receive Benefits Sooner – OI&T used Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to leverage modern IT tools for a better veteran experience. This implementation resulted in 39,300 full-time equivalent hours saved by the Revenue Operations team.
  • Decreasing Wait Times for Community Care – OI&T upgraded a Customer Relationship Management system, which helped VA staff better organize their work and respond faster to community care requests. The upgraded system facilitated a 63% reduction in service backlog since May 2021.
  • Helping Veterans Manage Their VA Debt – In early 2021, OI&T launched a new debt management tool for veterans with benefits-related debt. The new tool allows them to quickly access and manage their debt information online. Prior to the tool’s launch, veterans had to contact VA for information about their debt.

IT Modernization

  • Launching New Scheduling Options for Vaccine Appointments – OI&T quickly re-engineered a tool called VEText to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The app allowed VA medical facilities to offer patients the ability to schedule vaccine appointments from their mobile devices, resulting in over 230,000 vaccine appointments made through the tool.
  • Streamlining Access to Veteran Health and Benefits Information – OI&T also launched VANotify, a platform that enables VA to send digital notifications to veterans and caregivers instead of using regular mail. In 2021, over 200,000 veterans received communications around vaccination planning through VANotify.
  • Embracing Product Line Management (PLM) - In 2021, OI&T implemented the Product Line Management model to continue its transition from a project-focused to a product-focused organization. PLM accomplishments include releasing a PLM Playbook, introducing a DevSecOps dashboard portal, publishing the Product Line Dashboard, and developing Product Scorecards.
  • Modernizing Financial Management – OI&T supported the Integrated Financial and Acquisition Management System (iFAMS) launch at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
  • Leveraging Technology to Help Prevent Veteran Suicides – OI&T implemented a new web-based tool, the BHL Touch app, which expands measurement-based care and improves access to mental health care. Because of the increase in telehealth delivery, the BHL Touch app has been particularly beneficial to providers.
  • Improving Veterans’ Access to Financial Resources – To help veterans more easily access funding in response to the pandemic, OI&T assisted the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Insurance Service in replacing its manual loan request process with an online self-service feature. Now veterans can receive loan funds via direct deposit or check within a few days. More than 350,000 Veterans have access to the new functionality.

Strategic Sourcing

  • Leading a Smart Sourcing Initiative That Is Transforming the Veteran Experience – OI&T is applying a smart, agile approach to strategic sourcing which is essential to transforming the veteran experience.
  • Helping OI&T and VA Meet Socio-Economic Goals - Strategic Sourcing collaborates with the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization to obtain services from a wide range of small businesses, including businesses owned by disabled Veterans, women, and other socio-economic groups. Strategic Sourcing met or exceeded a majority of the department’s agency-wide goals for FY 2021.
  • Opening the Door to Industry Partnerships - OI&T’s Vendor Management Office is helping business owners navigate federal IT contracting opportunities available at VA.

Workforce Transformation

  • Re-defining Cyber Workforce Management for Federal Agencies – OI&T created the Cyber Workforce Management Office to maintain an agile and effective cyber workforce.  
  • Making the Workplace Accessible to All – OI&T is eliminating barriers to accessing content. 12–15% of VA employees are users with disabilities. OI&T creates applications and systems designed for accessible use and executes campaigns to promote different ability awareness. In 2021, VA received an A+ Federal Plain Language rating for organization compliance.
  • Celebrating Diversity by Hosting a “Women in OIT” Panel – In 2021, OI&T hosted several activities that celebrate the diverse workforce. In February 2021, OIT celebrated Women’s History Month with a Women in OI&T: Cracking the Code to Success virtual panel.

Seamless and Secure Interoperability: OI&T is working to provide veterans with easy access to their information.

  • Committing to Ethics Standards to Protect Veteran Information - In April 2019, the VA Interoperability Leadership team collaborated with VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care and established a Data Ethics Work Group, which developed nine ethics principles for access and use of veteran data.
  • Enhancing Seamless Transmission of Veterans’ Patient Data to the Social Security Administration - In 2016, OI&T built a digital interface to allow the SSA to submit requests and receive documentation related to medical disability claims. The new process replaced a cumbersome paper process. At the end of 2020, VA upgraded the SSA interface and migrated it to the joint Health Information Exchange gateway.  The upgraded digital interface decreases the time needed to process veterans’ monthly disability payment claims.
  • Improving the Veteran Experience by Enhancing Program Interoperability - The VA Interoperability Leadership (VAIL) team is working to implement solutions that will facilitate enterprise-wide interoperability. In 2021, the VAIL team created the VA Interoperability Framework, leveraged existing national and international interoperability framework models, and developed the Interoperability Maturity Index tool to measure progress.

2022 Plans

  • Customer Experience – OI&T plans to deliver more self-service tools and ensure the best online experience for veterans. The organization is enabling data-driven digital solutions to create a holistic patient experience and improve health outcomes. Moving forward, OI&T plans to make the most used VA products available via mobile devices and to help VA shorten times for benefits delivery.
  • IT Modernization – OI&T plans to advance its Product Line Management maturity by encouraging integration, customer engagement, and DevSecOps best practices usage. OI&T is creating a modern software factory, expanding application and infrastructure platforms, and finalizing the initial version of its hybrid cloud solution, VA Platform One. Additionally, OI&T is leveraging application performance monitoring tools to identify problems early and prevent system downtime.
  • Strategic Sourcing – OI&T is aligning procurement and acquisition processes by implementing FITARA standards and CIO assignment plans. It is also streamlining interactions with business partners and aligning activities and priorities with business partner objectives. OI&T is also developing a Vendor Risk Management Plan.
  • IT Workforce Transformation – In 2022, OI&T will develop a process to upskill staff for future needs aligned with employee talents and goals. The organization plans to continue to promote a workplace that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, OI&T will continue to promote cybersecurity and privacy best practices and awareness.
  • Seamless and Secure Interoperability – OI&T vows to implement policies that address the protection of sensitive VA and veteran information. It will also work to apply cybersecurity and privacy protections consistently across the enterprise. As VA implements a new electronic health record, OI&T plans to foster sound, sustainable improvements in interoperability, reduce technical interoperability risk, and promote effective and efficient management of its interoperability roadmap.

As VA continues its digital transformation, IT contractors will likely find opportunities to assist OI&T with modernization efforts such as cloud migration, app development to improve the customer experience and provide self-service, workforce training and upskilling, and bolstering VA’s cybersecurity posture.