Ask any of the 21.8 million Veterans what they want and they will tell you: access to information when and how they want it. As a Veteran, I know firsthand that simple access to benefits I may qualify for is important for my family and me. And since three out of four Veterans who use VA services want to connect to us online, we’ve been rapidly expanding our joint VA and Department of Defense (DoD) eBenefits self-service online portal since its debut in 2009. As a result, “eBenefits is clearly becoming the platform of choice for Veterans seeking access,” according to Veteran and VA Undersecretary for Benefits Alison Hickey.
As part of our mission to consistently and continually ease the process of obtaining benefits information, VA and DoD have expanded the functionality of eBenefits for the past 11 consecutive quarters. Our latest release brings the total number of self-service features to 46. Those features include email messages to Servicemembers as they reach career milestones, single sign-on capability that allows Vets to use one set of login credentials to access eBenefits, MyHealtheVet, the VA for Vets hiring site, and other online VA tools, the ability to download copies of VA and military correspondence, access to Post-9/11 GI Bill enrollment status, VA payment history, and DoD Tricare health insurance status. There is also a new Career Center page with employment self-assessment tools, a resume builder, and a translator that relates military expertise to civilian work skills.
But by far, the most popular feature within eBenefits is the ability to check the status of compensation and pension claims. This function requires a “premium” account, which previously required an in person visit to a VA regional office or a call to a 1-800 number where Vets also found it was difficult to get through to someone. Now, an account can be upgraded to “premium” status using an online “wizard” feature. In June, the claim status feature alone had over 700,00 visits.
Honestly, I love eBenefits. And I say that as a Veteran, not a VA employee. But don’t take my word for it. In just the last year, use of eBenefits has increase by 60 percent. We’ve signed up 1.65 million registered users and are approaching 2 million visits per month from Veterans and Servicemembers who have found eBenefits to be the quickest, easiest most efficient way to interact with VA.
The eBenefits application is a key component in VA’s ongoing transformation to a digital environment for benefits delivery. We’re not done. We’re going to keep increasing the functionality of eBenefits and adding features to better serve the men and women who have worn our country’s uniform. We want to ensure it is as easy as possible for any Veteran to get information on and apply for benefits. As a Veteran, that’s my number one priority, and eBenefits is the vehicle that is going to get us there.
Richard Allen Smith is a Web Communications Specialist for the Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Richard served on active duty in the United States Army from 2003-2008 and deployed to Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division in 2007.