Disrupting Veteran Care: The Tech Revolution Inside the VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs lists three items among its highlights for 2023. The Chief Technology Officer, Charles Worthington, and CIO Kurt DelBene named VA’s Health and Benefits mobile app; improvements to VA.gov; and expanding the online Veterans Legacy Memorial program as those three items on the latest episode of the Office of Information and Technology’s monthly LinkedIn Live series, #TalkingTech. After the episode finished, I asked them both about several of the projects they talked about on the show.

Revolutionizing Veteran Services: Data Integration and Digital Transformation

Summary: Charles Worthington, the CTO of the Department of Veterans Affairs, discussed the VA's initiatives to improve data integration and digital services for veterans. The VA Profile project aims to simplify veterans' interactions with VA services by ensuring their data is seamlessly updated and available across different VA systems. This initiative tackles the complex engineering challenge of integrating siloed systems developed over decades. Worthington also highlighted the replatforming of My HealtheVet, aiming to modernize the platform without disrupting the user experience. Additionally, he touched on the importance of creating roles in government that align with private sector expectations to attract tech talent. Looking ahead, Worthington envisions further enhancements to VA's digital products, increased mobile app usage, and a more comprehensive approach to adopting AI technologies.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The VA Profile project focuses on unifying veterans' data across different VA services, addressing long-standing challenges of system siloing.
  2. The replatforming of MyHealtheVet.gov aims to modernize the backend systems while maintaining a familiar user interface for veterans.
  3. Future goals include improving login processes, integrating more health tools into the mobile app, and establishing a robust framework for AI adoption and governance within the VA.


Elevating Operational Excellence: Strategic IT Developments at the VA

Summary: Kurt DelBene, the CIO of the Department of Veterans Affairs, reflected on the progress and future direction of the VA's IT operations. DelBene emphasized the significant improvement in system reliability and the importance of engineering rigor in shaping a robust IT infrastructure. He highlighted the establishment of numerous service level agreements (SLAs) to ensure a comprehensive measurement and accountability framework for system performance. DelBene also discussed the VA's strategic approach to prioritizing projects, focusing on impact rather than the attractiveness of the projects. Looking forward, he anticipates further advancement in executing the VA's modernization plan, with a particular emphasis on continuous execution and reinforcing engineering discipline across all IT initiatives.

Key Takeaways:

  1. System reliability at the VA has improved due to a focused approach on engineering rigor and detailed incident analysis.
  2. The VA has transitioned from a single SLA to multiple, detailed SLAs, allowing for a more nuanced and accountable measurement of system performance.
  3. Future efforts will concentrate on reinforcing the foundation laid down, with continued focus on prioritization based on impact and the effective execution of the VA's modernization plan. 


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