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VA Official: New, Streamlined 'Vets.gov' Coming in November

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald // Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP File Photo

The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to unveil a new Web portal that incorporates its more than 1,000 veteran-related websites, a VA official announced Thursday.

The new hub, called "Vets.gov," is scheduled to go live on Veterans Day -- Nov. 11 -- of this year, VA's Chief Veterans Experience Officer Tom Allin told an audience in Washington.  

On that day, Vets.gov will go live but will not be fully operational, Allin said. VA is still working on a single secure sign-on system that could provide access to the more than 1,000 other sites, he explained. 

"What we want is one portal, and we want the veteran to be able to go in, check on a claim, add a dependent, sign up for an education benefit, change their address and get that done online, at Vets.gov," he said.

VA aims to have that capability by next year, he said. 

VA Secretary Robert McDonald, who joined the department last summer in the wake of the scandal over delayed wait times for veterans seek health care, told an audience in Washington last month VA needed to simplify its services for veterans. 

"If I went to a veteran and said, 'What's Blue Button?' they would have no idea," McDonald said during a Politico event, referring to a system that lets patients download their own electronic medical records. Online veteran services have complicated names such as "MyHealtheVet," he added. "What's wrong with 'Veterans.gov,' or 'Vets.gov'?"

On Thursday, Allin said he was concerned VA didn't have enough integrated data about the veterans who use its services. 

At a national level, he said, “we have no idea right now who our customers are." The VA health system has at least 225 databases that "don't talk to each other. They have different data rules, and so we can't tell you who is actually using VA today among our veterans."

Allin said VA needs to improve its customer data collection efforts, including culling veterans' contact information, their military records, demographics and how they have been using VA services. 

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