The White House VA Hotline’s (1-855-948-2311) newest graduating class of agents started taking live calls this week and immediately put to use their weeks of extensive VA benefits and health care training. This class, a group of seven talented women, began listening to the concerns and experiences of Veterans and their families nationwide—and quickly fit right in. This seamless ‘right fit’ integration is by design. The consensus among Veterans is they want to talk to other Veterans. Each of these new agents is either a Veteran themselves, the spouse of a Veteran, or a close family member of a Veteran.
This Veteran-to-Veteran approach matters. “I think to us it’s not just a story,” said Janice, a U.S. Air Force retiree. “We have lived it: The ups, the downs, the whole package. While our experiences are not the same, we know the culture and can build from that foundation a level of understanding and trust.”
The hotline provides our nation’s Veterans with a direct, dedicated contact line staffed by highly trained agents 24-hours a day, 365-days a year.
A first of its kind for VA, this non-clinical contact center provides Veterans an outlet to voice their concerns, recommendations and compliments. Agents answer questions, guide Veterans and their families to the resources available, and if necessary, create a case for follow up. Of the 400,000 calls since launching in 2017, 97% of cases created have been resolved.
It is fitting that this group of women begin their watch at the hotline during Women’s History Month. While the entire staff reflects and celebrates the vital role of women in America’s history, these women will be vital in relaying their Veteran experience as well. As VA continues to develop programs and services specific to women Veterans, this group now stands front and center, eager to hear from women Veterans about their service to our country and how they feel about the services provided by VA. The positive experiences and opportunities for improvement captured during these conversations will be instrumental as VA works to build trust in this growing population.
Janice noticed another advantage from her all female graduating class: A generational perspective will help all Veterans. “When you think about Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans and then troops coming home now, the differences jump out right away, but there are a lot of similarities too.“
As each new class graduates and joins the hotline team, there is one constant: growth. Whether it’s building up staff levels to limit hold time for Veterans calling (which averaged 11 seconds in February 2020), implementing new products to engage with Veterans, or efforts to streamline and improve internal processes, the hotline’s impact continues to grow.
“Since we began 24-hour operations in 2017, our priority has been for Veterans and their families to get right through to our agents,” said Supervisory Program Analyst Susan Taylor. “We have a lot of pride in the fact that when they call, they get to speak with an agent quickly and are very proud that we measure that hold time in seconds not minutes.”
Next steps for the hotline includes opening new channels for Veterans like chat and text, as well as standing up additional analytic capabilities to share insights and drive additional program improvements. The hotline is growing and agent positions have been very popular to applicants. Rebecca Keough, Director of the hotline and Enterprise Contact Center Operations with the Veterans Experience Office accredits that to, “There isn’t a more honorable job than taking care of those who’ve served.”