On Feb. 26, Scott R. Blackburn, the executive in charge of VA’s Office of Information and Technology spoke to the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs about advancing technology to improve access and services to Veterans during the organization’s mid-winter conference.
“We are on an ambitious journey to become the No. 1 customer service agency within the federal government,” said Blackburn who was presented the 2018 NASDVA Advocate of the Year Award during the conference. “New and emerging IT solutions—such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and self-service tools—are revolutionizing the way Veterans receive care, benefits, and services. We must stay abreast of new solutions and cutting-edge technology if we want to deliver the world-class experience that our Veterans deserve.”
The use of technology is vital the department’s key initiatives and vision for modernizing VA systems by better managing data, migrating information to the cloud, improving cybersecurity, digitizing business processes and decommissioning legacy systems.
“We are streamlining our approach to take advantage of new technology and industry best practices in order to rapidly improve the ways we deliver care, benefits and services to Veterans,” Blackburn said. “We are embracing change and refocusing on why and how we serve Veterans.”
Blackburn, like many of those attending the conference, has a personal stake in improving the experience for Veterans that chose VA for their care. He shared his own journey of medical care as a Veteran himself.
“VA is not only my place of work, but it’s where I choose to receive my health care and benefits,” he said. “Throughout my adult life, I have used a combination of DoD, VA and private health care. After I sustained a service-related injury, I received care from DoD. Once I was discharged, I received private health care. Now, I get my care from VA. We want all Veterans to choose VA like I have, not because it might be their only choice, but because we are the best at what we do.”
VA is making major efforts to shift its culture from information silos and bureaucratic processes to collaboration and principles-based decision on actual Veteran outcomes. These steps, while not fully implemented VA-wide have made great strides in improving the Veteran experience and winning back their trust, which stood at a low 47 percent in January 2016, but has since improved to 70 percent.
The National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs represent all 50 states and territories and are the second largest provider of services to Veterans . Each director is tasked by their state with the responsibility to address the needs of Veterans regardless of age, gender, era of service, military branch or circumstance of service. Collectively, states contribute more than $6 billion annually in of our nation’s Veterans and their families.