VA is always refining its websites.
“There really isn’t a day where we say it’s done, where we go celebrate, walk away, and go on to something else,” said Samara Strauss, a digital service expert who works for the VA digital team that is responsible for maintaining and updating the VA website. “It really is a constant work in progress. Things like having an online application for health care or the online disability claim tool — those were things a few years ago that were only a dream and now they’re a reality. Now Veterans are using those tools every day.”
The VA.gov website allows Veterans to apply for, track, and manage their VA health care and benefits. Veterans can apply for health care, disability compensation, VA-backed Veteran home loans, Veteran ID cards, education benefits, and other benefits online; track some applications through their life cycle; and manage existing benefits and personal information all from the website.
Tasks that used to take months via paper and mail – such as filing a disability claim – now see reduced timelines because they can be completed online through VA.gov.
“In terms of how we work,” continued Strauss, “we launch something, track it to see how and if Veterans are using it and finding it helpful (or not), and determine how we can improve it over time. Our goal is to make it so Veterans can fully manage everything online.”
How does VA know what Veterans want on the VA website?
The VA.gov team uses human-centered design principles and engages with Veterans regularly. All projects start with teams talking to Veterans to validate their needs, and website updates are tested by Veterans before they are launched to evaluate how things could be improved.
VA.gov also looks at website analytics, which show how the Veteran community uses the website, to determine how to prioritize information so most commonly used functions are easily accessible. For example, the main VA.gov homepage shows the top 20 tasks performed by roughly 80 percent of website visitors.
For information not on the homepage, Veterans can use the site search feature to find information, and they will soon be able to use a new virtual agent (chat) feature that VA is preparing to roll out nationwide. For those who prefer a mobile experience, VA.gov is mobile friendly, and the VA.gov team recently launched a new VA mobile app. And for people who may use assistive technology, all VA.gov products aim to meet full Section 508 and accessibility standards.
How can a Veteran suggest an improvement?
If you’re a Veteran with a suggestion for a feature or ways to improve the website, go to VA.gov, select Contact Us, scroll to the bottom, and select Feedback. (The Feedback button is only for making constructive suggestions about the website. If you have questions or inquiries about your benefits or health care, this other Contact Us page tells you how to reach out with those types of questions.)
Tell us about your experience – what you need, what you can’t find, and what can be improved. Our goal is to make products that Veterans love to use, and with your feedback, we can do just that.