VA attempts to use Egov
August 31, 2009 at 10:29 am #79332
From Federal TImes:
Obama seeks employees’ ideas on cutting VA backlogs
By REBECCA NEAL
August 27, 2009
President Barack Obama wants ideas from the 18,000 employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration on how to reduce its backlog of work and get benefits to veterans faster.
Obama announced plans for a survey of VBA employees at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention last week in Phoenix. He’s appointing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and a high-level White House team — Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients — to the task.
“We’re going to fund the best ideas and put them into action, all with a simple mission: Cut those backlogs, slash those wait times, deliver your benefits sooner. I know you’ve heard this for years, but the leadership and resources we’re providing this time means that we’re going to be able to do it,” Obama told the veterans.
Administration leaders told Federal Times they’re serious about following through on the suggestions of experienced civil servants.
“Someone’s got an out-of-the box, new idea to improve productivity and burn off the backlog — we will pursue those solutions aggressively,” said Peter Levin, chief technology officer for the Veterans Affairs Department.
The backlog of benefits claims is more than 500,000, according to VA, though the American Legion says the number is closer to 1 million.
This survey is an important test of how the government uses the Web as well as a chance to listen to employees, Chopra said. “It’s about instilling a culture of open government,” he said.
The survey will be Web-based and will test new survey technologies, helping the government single out the best technologies and implement them across agencies, Chopra said. The technologies are free, thanks to terms of service agreements signed with the developers.
“We can solve big problems through innovative capabilities. In the news, you’ll read about an agency setting up a Twitter page or a YouTube account, but our intent is the marriage of these capabilities with real, challenging policy interests,” said Chopra, who said his role is to “thoughtfully introduce new technologies” to improve agency operations and communications.
Levin said the team has four possible Web-based platforms for the survey, one of which will be selected in the next two weeks. VA plans to have the project design and goals completed this week, he said. The survey will have two parts: first, semistructured questions on process improvement, technology solutions and workflow changes; and second, an open-ended section for employees to write their suggestions.
No end date has been set, but Levin said the team wants to get employees’ responses quickly.
“If you give people 45 days, the majority will fill them out on day 44. If you give them 30 days, they’ll do it on day 29,” he said.
The idea of surveying VA employees came up at the April confirmation hearing for Scott Gould, VA’s deputy secretary.
Front-line employees have a lot to tell us,” Gould said in April.
VA since has been inundated with employees eager to share their ideas for innovation, Chopra said, and he expects wide participation in the survey.
“I’ve heard nothing but great enthusiasm and strong ideas,” he said.
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