Collaboration and human-centered design are keys to new digital Disability Compensation Claim Tool


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Filling out long paper claim forms can be a tedious, frustrating experience. That’s why VA is continually looking to streamline processes for Veterans who apply for VA benefits.

In March of this year, VA rolled out an online Disability Compensation Claim Tool to make it more efficient and easier for Veterans to submit disability claims. In that first month alone, Veterans submitted 3,000 benefits compensation claims using this new tool.

The most important measure of success is how Veterans feel about this tool—and what they are saying is positive. During usability testing, Veterans told Ms. Andrea Schneider, Product Lead, Digital Services at VA (DSVA) and her team of developers that “the new tool is straightforward and not drawn out.” One Veteran remarked, “[The Disability Compensation Claim Tool] gives the advice that’s needed when trying to figure out what information to provide.”

The Disability Compensation Claim Tool is the result of a two-year long collaboration between the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT), DSVA design and engineering experts, and hundreds of Veterans who provided feedback during the development process.

“Our organizations worked side by side on daily standup calls and iterative requirements sessions to ensure we were building the right tool,” said Ms. Schneider of her working relationship with VBA.

Designed with Veterans, for Veterans

Designed based on Veteran experiences, the tool features new interactive questions to automatically populate the claims form. The form is now more transparent, which lets users review their responses before submitting the form online. Users can then track their claim’s applications and progress.

The tool’s ease of use is possible because of VA’s human-centered design principles that focus on the human experience—how a Veteran uses or interacts with technology—before development occurs. We consulted Veterans at key points in the development process and used their feedback to shape the tool.

The new tool is also tracking a range of important metrics, such as the amount of time users spend on each page and where users abandon the application.

VA uses these observations and ongoing user feedback as part of our agile development and delivery approach. This allows VA to deliver new tools into the hands of users quickly, and then continue to evolve and improve those tools over time.

Built-in Process Efficiencies

The tool checks for an already established Intent-to-File (ITF) date and records a new ITF date if one doesn’t already exist. VA uses this date to award retroactive benefits to the start of a medical diagnosis or treatment. In the past, submitting claims could result in duplicate and inaccurate ITFs on each Veteran’s record.

The automated ITF will shorten the timeline for claims adjudication, and is one of several new features to improve the Veteran’s experience of filing for disability compensation benefits.

 

Paul Shute is Chief of Operational Innovation at the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Compensation Service, and Andrea Schneider is Product Lead at U.S. Digital Service, Veterans Affairs (DSVA).

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