VA aims for easier access to GI Bill benefits with new digital portal
Any veteran who has worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to receive GI Bill benefits know the process can be challenging. In an effort to address this issue and provide a more streamlined experience for veterans, the VA will build and launch a new online platform for the management of most GI Bill benefits.
An innovative platform for accessing tuition benefits and more
Accenture Federal Services won the VA contract, and is working closely with the VA to create a user-friendly digital platform.
Following 2017 legislation, the VA has been working hard to update the way veterans can receive tuition and other benefits for higher education. However, these previous attempts led to glitches and other problems, which prompted the department to request additional funds from Congress. The CARES Act, the initial coronavirus relief package Congress passed in March 2020, allocates $243 million for this Digital GI Bill Modernization project.
Although this will be a multi-year, joint undertaking, the VA is optimistic that it will provide a modern, fully integrated solution for the nearly 1 million veteran students the department serves each year.
Goals of the Digital GI Bill Modernization
Currently, the VA distributes around $12 billion dollars worth of benefits using up to 23 different legacy computer systems. Claims processors are required to toggle between the systems, manually transferring data and performing duplicative duties. All this extra, time-consuming work creates more opportunities for human error that can slow down benefit distribution.
The features being developed in this modernization project include:
- Improved customer support and financial services. This will allow for more timely and accurate payment delivery with real-time eligibility and access to benefit information.
- Upgraded communication tools. With these refreshed tools, the VA will be able to call, email, text and chat directly with beneficiaries, as well as grant access to records.
- End-to-end systems management. This will enable proper compliance and oversight of GI Bill programs. It will also ensure the effective use of data and business intelligence tools to track, monitor and measure school and student outcomes.
- New program and policy requirement supports. As the academic community and job market continue to evolve, this will ensure the VA keeps pace with these changes.
Ultimately, the upgraded platform will provide veterans with the advantages of a new, modernized system with real-time support from VA staff. This includes better troubleshooting assistance with payment issues as well as easier, faster access to beneficiary records for VA staff.
While the VA has experienced setbacks with attempts to modernize other major programs, such as electronic health records modernization, the department is hoping for strong progress. By hiring an experienced systems integrator and software developer, the VA will be able to deliver improved services for veterans.
Since the GI Bill's implementation following World War II, the program has been instrumental in ensuring veterans have the means to access higher education and more. This digital modernization effort will guarantee distribution of these benefits, and will evolve alongside the available technology to make the entire process more efficient and streamlined.