VBA leads in customer experience by listening to transitioning service members

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is at the forefront of an effort across government to put the experience of our customers at the center of all we do. The Secretary of VA has made improving service to our veterans and beneficiaries a top priority. At the Veterans Benefits […]

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is at the forefront of an effort across government to put the experience of our customers at the center of all we do. The Secretary of VA has made improving service to our veterans and beneficiaries a top priority. At the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) we are among those leading this customer-centric transformation.



a sign on the side of a building: VBA leads in customer experience by listening to transitioning service members


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VBA leads in customer experience by listening to transitioning service members

The Under Secretary for Benefits is committed to providing veterans the benefits they have earned in a manner that honors their service by identifying customer service as one of his key priorities. VBA is adapting and aligning to industry standards of companies which have business models that place the responsibility for providing excellent customer service in the hands of all employees.

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Our model is simple; we listen to customers, we improve our processes based on what we learn, and we empower our employees to act.

Our recent efforts to improve service for our 200,000 transitioning service members illustrates our model and our commitment to this transformation. Transition begins up to one year before a service member separates from the military and lasts through the first year after separation and beyond.

First, we Listen.

Veterans tell us transition can be stressful and confusing. They also let us know during this time they are often flooded with so much information they can’t digest and retain it all.

VBA is using data/information collected from veterans to identify how VA can make changes that meet veterans’ needs. VBA connects with veterans up to a year before leaving the military to inform them about benefits and services through the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). We collect feedback after each VBA TAP class and conduct an annual Post-Separation TAP survey as well as a longitudinal survey of TAP participants.

In addition to traditional surveys and course assessments, VBA uses many other methods to get direct feedback from veterans, survivors and dependents including collecting comments through in-person interactions, call centers, social media and engagement with stakeholders and community advocates.

Then, we improve.

The insights are used to make immediate and long-term improvements. The complex nature of transition and the need to improve programs and reduce transition-related stress led VBA to partner with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to develop a new Military to Civilian Readiness Pathway (M2C Ready) framework. M2C Ready is designed to support a more holistic and successful transition for service members. Under the umbrella of M2C Ready, VBA is committed to improving existing programs and designing new programs to advance veterans’ lives.

Veterans tell us they were inundated with information during their transition. To address this, VBA launched Solid Start in December 2019 as part of President Trump’s executive order supporting veterans as they transition to civilian life. Through this program, VA representatives call veterans at three intervals during their first year of transition: three months, six months and one year. The discussions are tailored to the individual veteran, covering benefits and topics that are important to him/her. VA representatives also remind veterans about benefit applications that may be time sensitive. Additionally, Solid Start is part of VA’s larger suicide prevention strategy, which includes the PREVENTS Initiative, President Trump’s roadmap to reducing veteran suicide. The first year after separation can be the most difficult for veterans to navigate and therefore a critical time for VA to connect with veterans to help them get benefits, support and services, ultimately – lowering the risk of suicide for our nation’s service members.

Finally, we empower.

Customer service isn’t the responsibility of one person or one department in VBA, it is everyone’s job.

Having the right tools and being empowered to serve, allows Solid Start representatives to make authentic connections with veterans they call. Then Solid Start representatives follow up the call with a personalized email outlining what was discussed and providing resource information. Since the launch of the Solid Start program, VBA has successfully connected with more than 70,000 newly transitioned veterans. The results have been phenomenal, and veterans appreciate the program and the level of personalized service they receive.

VBA’s dedication to service improvement extends to all veterans and beneficiaries we serve.

For VBA it’s simple, veterans have earned benefits and deserve the very best. By listening to customers, improving our processes and empowering our team, VBA is determined to provide those benefits through top-level customer service. The organization has more on the horizon to prioritize customer service and continue process improvement – designed to exceed the expectations of those we serve.

Margarita Devlin is the Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits in the Veterans Benefits Administration at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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