The Department of Veterans Affairs launched a new mobile application, VA: Health and Benefits, which centralizes health and benefits information, enabling veterans to better navigate the agency’s services.
VA soft-launched the application in August 2021; since then, more than 800,000 veterans have downloaded it. Through the interface, veterans can view and cancel health care appointments, view claims and appeals status, upload documentation, message their doctor, locate facilities and more. It also provides access to the VA Crisis Line.
"It's designed to be a single secure platform that allows veterans to manage their services wherever they are, right in your right in your pocket,” Chris Johnston, deputy CTO of Digital Experience at VA explained during a Talking Tech episode last week. “It's a personalized experience for people to be able to do things like check the status of a claim, secure message your provider or find a facility.”
The app also allows veterans to update their VA profile, benefits, personal information, military background and banking information. VA streamlined that process, so the new inputs will be updated across most functions and units across the agency.
VA is working to unify its platforms, including va.gov, My HealtheVet, the Health and Benefits application and more so they're based on “a single source of truth,” offering the same capabilities and information across all the agency’s digital services.
“One of the things that's important to note is that changing this information will change it across most of the capabilities at VA and that didn't used to be the case,” Johnston said. “It used to be, if I went into say my health appointment and I changed my phone number there, it was only in that clinic that I was changing my phone number. Changing it here will change it, not absolutely everywhere, but most places.”
Updating military history in the application will become even more critical with the signing of the PACT Act. Under the new legislation, where a veteran served ties directly to their benefits eligibility.
"We want to be able to reflect that back to you make sure that we have all the locations that you served to see if you might be eligible for those additional benefits,” Johnston said.
Veterans can also send forms to VA by taking photos of documents and uploading those documents into court, saving veterans time and costs. Johnston said that there’s “no room for error” through this new method because claims and forms are filed automatically.
Security plays a key role in the application. The app features two-factor authentication and encryption to ensure privacy.
“All information gets secured is encrypted in transit to and from its destination,” Johnston said. “These things are all coming from databases that are secure within VA’s Secure Enclave, if you will, that can only be accessed through verified, secure requests.”
VA recently added a new vaccine feature to its app, which provides veterans with vaccine history and medications. As VA continues to build out the application, the agency anticipates adding new features in the coming year, like refilling prescriptions, requesting appointments and managing payments.
"What we're seeing today—on websites, not on mobile app—is almost 50% of users that are viewing the website are on a mobile [device]," Johnston said. "We see 13 million people a month on the website. That’s seven and a half million people a month... [who] could very easily be benefiting from using the mobile app. We want to make sure that we're building things to meet all their needs.”