The Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly unveiled the beta version of Vets.gov, a new site eventually intended to give users single sign-on access to thousands of online veteran services.
Currently, the site is a bare-bones framework of that vision. The site points users to explanations of veterans' education and disability benefits, provides a handful of links to applications for those benefits, and includes a facility locator and a GI Bill comparison Web tool. A disclaimer atop Vets.gov admits: "This site is a work in progress. We’re designing in the open. If you don’t find what you need, visit VA.gov."
Within the next year, veterans will be able to manage all their personal information in one account on Vets.gov, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement on the site.
"You’ve told us VA has too many websites containing too much confusing information," he said. "You’ve said want a site that’s clear – one that’s written in plain language and is easy to use."
VA is releasing the site in beta so it can gather information about what users like and dislike during the development process, McDonald said. VA declined to provide further interviews or comment about the Vets.gov rollout.
In September, Chief Veterans Experience Officer Tom Allin told an audience in Washington the site would go live on Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day -- but that it would not be fully operational.
"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. Allin also said VA is working on a single secure sign-on system for the more than 1,000 veteran-related sites.
In a FedBizOpps posting that same month, VA said it was searching for a contractor specializing in agile product development -- breaking large technology projects into several smaller "sprints" -- to help stand up the site. VA's Office of Information and Technology's Digital Services plans to oversee the site's development.