Two programs at the National Cemetery Administration are leveraging digital services to honor and remember the legacies of interred veterans.
One of those is the Veterans Legacy Memorial — a remembrance platform that allows the public to pay tribute to veterans interred in the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemeteries and VA grant-funded tribal, state, and territory Veteran cemeteries.
“[VLM is] a way for families to stay connected to that veteran. That veteran's memory stays alive,” VA Memorial Affairs Undersecretary Matthew Quinn told GovCIO Media & Research Saturday during the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Convention in Orlando. “I've gone out and just written, ‘Dad, thinking about you,’ or my brother, ‘Pat, thinking about you.’ It's heartwarming to us as family members, but to other family members that said, ‘hey, they thought about my loved one.’”
The other is a similar program in how it keeps veterans’ memories alive, but with a different mission.
Through the Veterans Legacy Program, NCA partners with schools and higher education institutions to develop history programs or “vignettes,” as Quinn described, about interred veterans. This work ultimately leads to the development of historical media that can be shared with the general public.
The program is also looking at innovative approaches to technology to support this work.
“They're doing some augmented reality, and I just visited with the University of Central Florida administrator who is laying out the entire cemetery and the sights of each of those veterans,” Quinn said.
Through the Veterans Experience Office, VA is continuing to leverage user feedback to improve its services by better understanding veterans’ and their family members' experiences and then iterating on current platforms.
“We've gone out to them to see how we can better improve [VLM]. One of the things that we've done is made it more mobile-user friendly,” Quinn said. “Rather than coming back to a computer and loading something up, they can do it on their mobile device and put in a memory right there — maybe a picture of them next to the grave site.”
The function of technology within memorialization is one of Quinn’s biggest priorities. Quinn would like to see NCA leverage some of the techniques its counterpart, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), has used to automate claims for determining internment eligibility at a national cemetery.
“There should be an automated method. If VBA can make a determination on claims eligibility within days, NCA should not take three months,” Quinn said separately during a seminar at the convention in Orlando Saturday.
Similar approaches could streamline appointment scheduling within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Quinn added. Ultimately, this contributes to an agency priority to meet the veteran where they are.
“Technological advances are one of my big priorities,” Quinn said. “I want to make that veteran experience more user friendly so that, as they're looking for a family member or the veteran is looking for a final resting place, their interaction with us is as easy as it can be. That's very important, and I think technology will help get us there.”