Creating User-Centric Digital Experiences for VA.gov Users

  • Case Study
  • Application Design & Development
  • Veteran & Enterprise Technology

Background

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) provides veterans with a myriad of critical and often lifesaving services and benefits. Digital access to these services has proven paramount for Veterans and their loved ones. However, many of the 10+ million monthly visitors to VA’s digital environment had frustrating encounters with a complicated maze of websites, forms, logins, brands, and outdated tools.

To address issues and deliver a modernized digital experience, VA OIT built Vets.gov in 2015. In 2018, VA launched an improved “VA.gov” to further harmonize the user digital experience, consolidating hundreds of VA websites including Vets.gov.

VA OIT established the Veteran-Facing Services Applications (VSA) contract to continue enhancing and optimizing VA.gov. Through this effort, VA sought to deliver self-service tools on par with top private sector companies- providing veterans with content and user experiences on VA.gov that made finding and getting their benefits easier and more intuitive.

Understanding the Need

VA.gov’s web-based sites and tools had to provide an authenticated, consistent, intuitive, and unified Veteran experience that allowed easy access to all the digital services available from VHA, VBA, and NCA. To help VA.gov meet these high standards, VA brought on GovCIO to lead the VSA initiative. The main objectives included:

  • Upgrading user-facing digital tools.
  • Integrating disparate content, tools, and brands into one experience.
  • Driving a mobile-friendly format, besides iOS and Android-native mobile applications, which offered a similar experience.
  • Delivering customer-first design and content that provides customized digital user experiences.
500%
Increase in online claims submissions.
140
VA Medical Center sites consolidated for consistent user experiences.
50%
Increase in overall application use.

Our Solution

GovCIO brought new ways of working to VSA, leveraging cross-functional teams to help VA create modern digital services on par with the private sector. Using our Agile, user-centered process, we delivered products at scale for millions of Veterans without interruption. Within this process, we integrated:

Human-Centered Design

Product-Oriented Development

DevSecOps and API-First

Holistic Perspective

Results

GovCIO’s Veteran-centric and outcome-focused approach has improved Veterans’ lives by quickly bringing to market new and improved products for the VA.gov experience. Over the course of this effort, our 21 scrum teams helped increase application use by 50% and online claims submission by 500%. We maintained a 99.95% uptime across VA.gov and reduced latency by 32%.

Our teams consistently built the right products for the right users. Example our VSA successful efforts include:

  • eBenefits: GovCIO migrated one of the largest VA applications, eBenefits, to a modern development and Cloud infrastructure. GovCIO migrated the direct deposit capability, greatly improving ease of use and accessibility and encouraging Veterans to use direct deposit over paper checks.
  • VAMC Migration: Our team worked with all VA Medical Centers (~140 sites) to transition all local VA sites, 1000+ page implementations, to a modernized, dual state (web and mobile-friendly) platform. We modernized the VAMC websites using a mobile-first approach to accommodate the growing mobile user base. Our efforts reduced site design complexity and the number of pages while providing easier access to information, site use, and navigation for Veterans.
  • VA Debt Management Project: VA sought an improved debt management experience for Veterans. Initially conceived to allow Veterans to view their debt letters online using a developed Debt Portal, it became apparent much more could be accomplished.  We digitized the FSR, the most complex form ever digitized on VA.gov, in 4.5 months, to provide Veterans with contextual help and eliminate major causes for FSR 5655 Form rejections. Modern UX principles such as Typeahead were implemented to assist the Veteran in filling out the FSR for the first time. We also improved the current Debt Management site, the first time a whole website has been redesigned on VA.gov.