Enhancing Veteran Experiences
^ LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW ABOVE ^
Enhancing Veteran Experiences: Agile Six's Partnership with the VA
Today, we're going behind the scenes to learn how Agile Six is improving the lives of Veterans and their families through innovative solutions and our meaningful partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Discover how we're making a difference by putting Veterans first as we explore the work, stories, initiatives, and values that drive this commitment to service. To kick things off, our CEO and founder Robert Rasmussen will share his insights into what fuels this dedication.
Robert Rasmussen's Reflections: A Deep Dive Into Our Mission
As a Veteran myself, a volunteer in an all-volunteer military, and a father who raised a family in the military, I understand [service] is way more of a sacrifice than I expected going in or that most people understand. We founded this company with the spirit of our mission rooted in the repayment of that sacrifice. And that's the ultimate mission of the VA as well; but when we started the company, we felt we could offer an improvement in that experience. So when the warfighter comes home, when the family is reunited, and when they start to build a life in their communities, they should no longer have to experience a government-issue experience.
They should have easy access to things they've earned, that they deserve, and that they fought and sacrificed for. The resources of our government need to be available, and their needs need to be met without friction. Many of the systems that we encounter and improve today are outdated. We're still using paper and fax machines. Ultimately, our goal is that they would experience a high-level consumer-level experience when accessing things that, quite honestly, they've earned.
So we're really proud to say today that we have twelve active contracts right there in the area of Veteran-facing services and are working right where value is delivered to these heroes.
Navigating Collaborations with the VA
Agile Six's Chief Growth Officer Josh Quagliaroli shares insights into our collaborations with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and our commitment to enhancing the lives of Veterans.
I am excited to be part of the story about our work at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I've been working here at Agile Six for the past five and a half years, and before that, I was actually an employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs for about eight years.
It's really important that we're able to collaborate with the VA not only at the project level, but also at a higher level to understand what it is the VA is trying to do and then try to help them get there as best as we can. Our focus is on outcomes to improve the experience for Veterans working with the VA. In order to do that, we all have to be on the same page.
We work very closely with the CTO’s office at the VA, and a lot of that is more Veteran-facing. We have twelve prime contracts right now. It's not just about what the contracts are telling us we have to do; it's about understanding how to make the experience better for Veterans. If that means making the experience better for employees at the VA, [then that is] essential to improve the overall experience for Veterans.
Agile Six's Projects with the VA: Enhancing the Veteran Experience
The Content: At the Heart of Information
[Content Management System, Accelerated Publishing, Facilities, and Public Websites]
Our first contract with the VA revolves around the Veteran-Facing Services Content Management System. In conjunction with this contract, we have what's known as Accelerated Publishing. These two components are pivotal as they house all the content for the unauthenticated experience for Veterans.
All the authors within the VA utilize this content management system to write all the content about their programs, outlining how Veterans can apply for benefits and effectively manage them. It's important to note that all the information you see on VA.gov is managed through our content management system, which is built on Drupal.
In addition, we manage content on VA.gov through our Sitewide contract, which includes the Facilities pages. Veterans can easily search for VA medical centers, vet centers, or clinics, and this information is seamlessly powered by our Drupal content management system.
The other facet of our Sitewide contract focuses on the Public Websites, together comprising the entire unauthenticated experience on VA.gov. This encompasses a broad spectrum of content, ranging from guidance on applying for disability compensation benefits to checking eligibility for education benefits. All of those pages are created through the Sitewide contract.
One of our noteworthy initiatives is the Accelerated Publishing effort. Currently, it takes about 30 minutes to publish the entirety of VA.gov. Our objective is to streamline and expedite the publishing of content, ensuring Veterans have swift access to the information they need.
Nate Douglas: Veterans Helping Veterans
I am the technical lead on the VA.gov modernization project, specifically focusing on the CMS (Content Management System). As an engineer on this team, my main priority is to address the unexpected challenges that arise. It's always an unpredictable environment, but our mission is clear: to ensure that content is consistently delivered and up-to-date, preventing outdated information from reaching our users.
I am also a Veteran, having served in the Navy about 20 years ago. When I was discharged due to a medical condition, I faced the challenge of transitioning to civilian life and finding employment. During this period, the Department of Veterans Affairs provided me with support, helping me rebuild my career and regain a sense of purpose in life once more.
For me, it's deeply meaningful to contribute to this work and improve the policies, processes, and tools that enable us to deliver essential services to Veterans and make it easier for more Veterans to access the help they need when they need it.
Agile Six's Veterans Benefits Initiatives
[Toxic Exposure (PACT Act), Automated benefits delivery; Disability compensation benefits, Accredited representatives, and ease of internal VA claims processing]
Now, we're going to talk a little bit about the benefits work that's associated with the Veterans Benefits Administration. One of our first benefits efforts was the toxic exposure work. That work is about making it easier for Veterans and internal VA employees to process claims, specifically focused around the presumptive conditions related to the PACT Act. What we're currently working on is called the Virtual Regional Office, and the purpose is to allow other groups within the VA that are building systems to build off of this platform. The result will make it easier to get all of the information into one place so that we can use that information to expedite the processing of Veterans' disability compensation claims.
We have another contract, ABD Apps, which stands for Automated Benefits Delivery. With this work, we're focused primarily on the disability compensation application (form number 21-526EZ). There, we’re trying to make it easier for Veterans to apply for disability compensation benefits through the actual forms experience on VA.gov.
As part of that effort, we're also working on something called contention classification, which allows Veterans to choose within that application process their disability that they're claiming. Through that process, being able to choose from that list and then once they've chosen, it will crosswalk to the claims processing systems in the backend that Veteran service representatives actually work on to help expedite the processing of those claims.
We also are working on more of the employee experience side of things as part of our VSO and Claim Fast Tracking contract. At first, we'll be working on making it easier for Veteran Service Representatives who are processing claims to actually digest the information that is coming on these applications from Veterans from VA.gov. The goal is to make it faster and easier for them to process that information. Right now, it comes on a PDF.
The other aspect of this work involves VSOs, which stands for Veteran Service Organizations. The work also involves other accredited representatives, including claim agents or attorneys—these individuals and organizations assist Veterans in applying for and managing their benefits with the VA. When a Veteran may have questions or needs guidance due to the complexity of the process, these accredited representatives are available to provide assistance. Part of our ongoing efforts is to integrate these accredited representatives into VA.gov, so they can help Veterans with the claims processes.
Streamlining VA.gov Health Care Access
[Health Care Enrollment, Family member benefits, MyHeatheVet on VA.gov]
The first area of focus is the Health Enrollment Experience. Veterans apply for health care benefits through the Health Enrollment Application, using the 10-10EZ form on VA.gov. Additionally, we work on the Caregiver's Application, known as the 10-10CG. Both efforts aim to simplify the process for Veterans to apply for their health care benefits with the Veterans Health Administration.
Next is our work for Veterans who have already enrolled in VA health care. We are currently working on the Veteran Check-In Experience. In the past, for your appointments, you would have to go to the VA medical center and check in at the front desk. During COVID, it was made clear that other options were necessary. Now there's a digital experience and a phone experience that allow you to check in prior to entering the VA facility.
We've also initiated work on the CHAMPVA applications and Veteran Family Member Programs forms. This work assists Veterans' family members in applying for and managing their own benefits, ensuring they understand the process and the required applications to access their benefits.
One of our key initiatives on the health side is our contract called MyHealtheVet on VA.gov. Our effort here is to bridge the gap between VA.gov and MyHealtheVet. We are bringing these two platforms closer together to offer a seamless experience for Veterans. With a new landing page on VA.gov, Veterans can interact with applications traditionally hosted on MyHealtheVet without needing to re-login or switch between websites, ensuring a more integrated and user-friendly experience.
Athena Bozak: Veterans Helping Veterans
Now, let's hear from Athena Bozak on one more health project that we're working on. It's through the Office of Healthcare, Innovation, and Learning, and it's called Diffusion Marketplace.
Diffusion Marketplace is a website that our team, alongside the VA, has built to serve as a discovery and collaboration tool that curates promising, engaging, and innovative practices and programs that are developed and designed by the VA. The intent is to have a hub to share best practices so that VA facilities across the nation all have access to the knowledge, resources, and tools to provide the best care to our Veterans.
I retired from the Air Force in 2007, and my husband is also a 20-year retired military Veteran. The work we do is very important and critical to the wellness of all our Veterans. I personally receive my care at the VA, my husband receives his care at the VA, and my close circle of friends all receive care at the VA. This project hits close to home, and I'm very passionate about the work we do.
We genuinely believe in the vision and mission of this work, so Veterans are in good hands.
Enhancing the Authenticated Experience on VA.gov
Josh discusses the work we do in the Authenticated Experience on VA.gov, providing personalized support for Veterans.
The Authenticated Experience on VA.gov is what Veterans encounter after they log in. It's like their personal homepage, designed to reflect that the VA recognizes who they are and why they're visiting the site. This page establishes connections with backend systems to retrieve their profile information, including their address and phone number. Veterans have the ability to edit this information to ensure its accuracy in the VA's records.
In addition to this basic profile information, we are dedicated to addressing the critical issue of debt resolution, a topic often overlooked but profoundly affecting Veterans' lives. When Veterans incur debt with the VA, they need to interact with the Debt Management Center in order to facilitate paying back that debt. This process involves understanding the owed amount, the reasons behind the debt, and the steps to establish a repayment plan. Veterans can also submit waiver requests for debt forgiveness under specific circumstances.
We are committed to building better, providing Veterans with the necessary tools, resources, and assistance they need to navigate both the authenticated experience and debt resolution aspects of their VA journey, ultimately reducing the stress and uncertainties in their lives.
Heather Rienks: Supporting Our Military Community
I’m a Delivery Manager at Agile Six and I work on a digital experience team on VA.gov, specifically on the Debt Resolution Team. What we do is help Veterans make it easier to understand if they have any debt to the VA.
We work with various VA departments, including the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the Debt Management Center (DMC). Our unique position allows us to collaborate closely with different parts of the VA, ensuring Veterans receive what they need as quickly as possible to manage their debt.
As a mother of four and part of a military family based in San Diego, California, my husband's 22-and-a-half-year Navy service has provided me with a deep connection to the military community.
I think about my old neighbor, John, who was a Navy Veteran living next door to us. Long before I joined Agile Six, I heard about his frustrations dealing with the VA. I remember John eagerly checking his mailbox for letters about his disability claim. I even drove him to the VA in La Jolla and helped him write letters. Witnessing the financial impact of not receiving his full compensation firsthand, despite being a 100% disabled Veteran, was eye-opening.
These benefits directly affect my family. Having a neighbor like John made me realize how critical it is to help people like him, putting a name and face to the struggles they face. Knowing that I can easily access VA.gov to find answers quickly is incredibly important to me.
I take immense pride in being part of something that serves a community I'm deeply connected to. When we work on VA.gov projects that directly impact people in my network, whether they're active-duty friends, Veterans, or those in need of VA assistance, it reminds me that there's nothing more important or impactful than giving back to my community.
Building Better by Putting Veterans First
All the work we've discussed is doing something to make a positive impact on Veterans' lives. That’s what we are trying to do. We are dedicated to improving their well-being and look forward to continuing our partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs. There’s always more work to do here, and we’ll continue to build better by putting Veterans first.
Thanks to Robert, Josh, Heather, and Nate for their insightful contributions.
Enhancing Veteran Experiences: Agile Six's Partnership with the VA is a comprehensive overview of Agile Six's partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and their mission to improve the lives of Veterans and their families.
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Disclaimer: This blog post is a summary of the interview. To access the full audio interview, please visit the top of this page.