That’s not the only approach, but it is a timely one in light of a recent story on the overgrowth of federal web sites talked about the “State of the Federal Web Report,” released Dec. 16 by a government task force. The report represented the first comprehensive review of federal websites, following the Obama administration conclusion earlier this year that there were simply too many government websites.
The report also highlighted findings from interactions with the public, which led to hundreds of suggestions for ways to improve users’ experience with federal websites. I found there were simply too many web pages with too many options and links at the Veterans and eBenefits Portal for even me to follow, let alone our veterans, their families, and service members.
As a data scientist I decided to first start with the National Center for Veterans Administration Statistics (NCVAS) as a basis for the design of the eBenefits Portal and sought to answer the question: What does the data tell us about the veteran’s experience with using Veteran Benefits services?
That proved to be very insightful. One of the major conclusions of a recent survey was the older the veteran, the harder it is to understand and apply for benefits. This means it has to be greatly simplified–so simple that every veteran has his own Web page that he or his family members and/or caregivers can go to instead of having to search around for many pages and options like it is now.
This exercise is similar to one I did to build a dashboard for Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Military: The Numbers And The Knowledge To Help and the Simplify the Veteran’s Personal Health Record for VA’s ‘Blue Button for All Americans’ Contest Expands Personal Health Records, I did recently.
I focused on finding the basic rules (425) and basic features (42) so I could pilot a mobile dashboard app for veterans, their families, and service members to use. The eBenefits Portal mentions that mobile app features are coming.
I created a comprehensive index that distills the contents on those many pages and makes searching by Topics (about 400) and Frequently Asked questions (about 425) much easier. I also created some sample maps and graphs from their Excel data sets to show how these could be part of a mobile app dashboard. The detailed results are shown elsewhere and though not ready for veterans to use directly, illustrates how to get there.
So I say lets greatly simplify the process of searching for veterans benefits by providing a secure Web site , such as MindTouch for each veteran containing a simple dashboard, such as Spotfire, based on spreadsheets in Excel, that is driven by a dynamic case management tool that keeps it current.