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VA’s Progress Implementing the IDEA Act

Published: January 20, 2022

Federal Market AnalysisDigital GovernmentInformation TechnologyMobilityVA

VA touts fifteen specific digital experience accomplishments for 2021 in implementing the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience (IDEA) Act.

Late last month VA released its annual report regarding progress implementing the IDEA Act. The act requires federal agencies to modernize their websites and digital services. VA details the department’s 2021 progress in the most recent report.

VA set out to accomplish three primary goals related to the implementation of the IDEA Act in 2021:

  • Increase the use of self-service tools
  • Enable faster access to care and more timely delivery of services
  • Improve the customer experience and reliability of VA’s online services

The report lists fifteen specific accomplishments achieved last year:

  1. VA Flagship Mobile Application – VA launched a native mobile application of VA.gov for iOS and Android which contains functionality that cuts across the VA administrations, presenting a single view of VA to users.
  2. VA Medical Center (VAMC) website redesign – VA redesigned all 140 local VA medical system websites, simplifying navigation and making them more user-friendly with easy-to-understand information and resources.
  3. Modernized form search and detail pages – VA redesigned the “find a VA Form” page on the VA website to simplify the process for finding a form. The new functionality is more user-centered and also drives traffic to top online benefits applications.
  4. Spanish and Tagalog translations – VA translated content around COVID-19 into the most common non-English languages, Spanish and Tagalog, in order to improve access to services for people with limited English proficiency.
  5. Veteran dashboard / MyVA – VA updated the MyVA Dashboard to provide veterans with a tailored experience once they are logged into the site, serving them relevant tasks and updates based on their unique interactions with VA.
  6. Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP) –VA launched a digital VRRAP application tool for veterans. The submission results are part of the automated process VA.gov employs to route form submissions directly to the appropriate regional office for processing.
  7. Appeals Modernization: Higher-Level Review (HLR) for Disability Claim – VA launched a digital tool on VA.gov for veterans to use to request a higher-level review for a disability claim. Prior to the launch of the digital tool, the only way for a veteran to request a higher-level review was via paper.
  8. Appeals Modernization: Notice of Disagreement (NOD) – VA developed an online version of a Notice of Disagreement, also known as a board appeal, planned for release in early calendar year 2022. To date, the NOD process has involved submitting a paper form.
  9. Veteran Debt Resolution – VA is building a comprehensive solution across the department to allow veterans to manage their financial relationship with the agency. The solution will take multiple years to implement and involves business process re-engineering and modernization of systems. 2021 work included digitizing the Financial Status Report, adding pro-active notifications for new debt, and including medical co-pays in the debt resolution center.
  10. eBenefits Consolidation – As part of VA’s digital modernization strategy it is consolidating disparate web products and tools onto a single, modern platform. The department recently released the following features: viewing rated disabilities, applying to add dependents, applying for veteran readiness and employment, and managing direct deposit for education benefits.
  11. Disability Claims Forms – VA is starting the redesign of its workflow for disability claim submissions and related benefits. VA is coordinating with VBA to make associated forms more accessible to all veterans.
  12. Education Benefits – VA is digitizing applications for STEM educational opportunities. Digitization work in 2021 included: the form for STEM Decision Automation, the form for Transfer of Benefits, and the form for STEM Scholarship.
  13. VA Online Scheduling (VAOS) – VA deployed VAOS nationwide, which is an important component of its Digital Health Modernization. VAOS enables veterans to self-schedule and request primary care appointments.
  14. Demographics and Personalization – In order to better understand and serve veterans, VA is adding new fields to its health care application form and online profile for self-identified gender identity, preferred pronouns, preferred names, and birth sex.
  15. COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Scheduling via Text Message – VA leveraged the VEText app to enable patients to schedule vaccine appointments via text message. This capability expanded vaccine access to veterans, caregivers, and spouses while saving VA tens of thousands of hours of staff time that would have been necessary for manual scheduling.

As VA continues to improve digital access, customer experience, and digital modernization, IT contractors will likely find opportunities to assist VA with efforts such as application development, human-centered design endeavors, self-service tools, and optimization for mobile access to services.