VA Secretary Bob McDonald joined Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to discuss how their generation is defining itself. Hosted by the Washington Post, The Next Mission brought Veterans together to share their stories about the perception and portrayal of Veterans and the challenges this generation of Veterans face as it tries to define itself.
Throughout his time at VA, Secretary McDonald has focused on the MyVA transformation process to improve VA’s relationship with Veterans, including the Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. This newer generation of Veterans has different needs and concerns than the older generation of Veterans, and it’s VA’s goal to make sure we’re reaching all Veterans where they are. To better do so, McDonald has encouraged VA employees to train in human-centered design, a process that tailors new solutions designed to meet Veterans needs.
“We created archetypes of the different Veterans that we serve so that we would understand the difference between the Iraq Veteran and the World War II Veteran. And then we said we’ve got to design our programs to meet the need of every Veteran. We’ve got to be where they want to be, the way they want us to be there, when they want us to be there,” said McDonald.
One part of reaching that demographic was making digital services available, to include mobile apps that provide resources for Veterans and alternatives to paper-based healthcare enrollment and claims. Another key part of reaching this demographic was getting the younger Veterans service organizations to the table, such as Team Rubicon, Team Red, White & Blue and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. VA reached out and worked with these groups to better understand what their needs are, then built those needs in. One example that is being implemented is the need for VA to update their facilities to accommodate for the growing number of women Veterans.
As the Veteran population continues to change, VA will have to adapt and change with it.
“We’re going to celebrate Veterans Day tomorrow, and it will be terrific. And beyond Veteran’s Day we are going to deliver the absolute best service for Veterans. Because our vision is to be the number one customer service organization in the federal government, and I think we can get there,” said McDonald.