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SSC Atlantic: Partnering to support veterans and their families

Posted 10/3/2012   Updated 10/3/2012 Email story   Print story

    


Commentary by Capt. Mark Glover
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Atlantic commanding officer


10/3/2012 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- My Navy journey that began in 1982 from my hometown of Walterboro, S.C., has literally taken me around the world and given me the opportunity to progress from seaman recruit to Navy captain. I would not trade it for anything. But as much as I love wearing this uniform, like the more than 1.4 million service members on duty today, I also aspire to one day become a veteran. Not one day soon mind you, but one day. That's why I'm especially proud of all Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Atlantic is doing to support today's and tomorrow's veterans and their families.

I first learned of SSC Atlantic's connection with the Veterans Administration when I was preparing to report as the center's commanding officer. I knew that SSC Atlantic makes information technology count for the warfighter, but I was surprised to learn how SSC Atlantic has delivered automated IT solutions to the VA which has enabled its transformation to a digital environment for veterans' benefits delivery. SSC Atlantic has provided the VA a full range of technical and project management services to help modernize its IT systems and infrastructure.

Post-9/11 GI Bill
SSC Atlantic's IT solutions are helping the VA more efficiently process, administer and manage educational benefits to service members, veterans and their beneficiaries attending college under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. In fact, in the last three years, more than 773,000 veterans and their family members have received more than $18.3 billion in financial assistance to help pay tuition and fees as they realize their educational goals.

In 2009, the VA faced a growing backlog of veteran claims and asked SSC Atlantic to develop a web-based software application to improve the processing and payment of Post-9/11 GI Bill claims. SSC Atlantic's Chapter 33 Post-9/11 GI Bill Long-Term Solution team used an Agile software development strategy to deliver an IT capability which improved the VA's ability to address future needs and to respond to legislative and policy changes in the processing of Chapter 33 benefits. The system minimizes manual intervention and maximizes efficiency. SSC Atlantic's Chapter 33 Post-9/11 GI Bill Long-Term Solution team was honored with this year's Charleston area Federal Executive Association's team award for their efforts. But the Chapter 33 Post-9/11 GI Bill Long-Term Solution is not the only program SSC Atlantic has developed for the VA.

eBenefits Portal
SPAWAR and the VA have also collaborated on an eBenefits Portal, a website that puts benefits information and self-service capabilities at the fingertips of veterans, service members, their families and their caregivers. eBenefits is a one-stop portal for benefits-related tools and information, with links to information on benefits and entitlements, health, insurance, housing, claims status and VA and Department of Defense systems. It offers a single location to apply for benefits such as compensation and pension, vocational rehabilitation and employment and educational entitlements using the Veterans Online Application Direct Connect tool. eBenefits users can also check the status of claims, view a history of benefits received and access copies of official military personnel records,and perform a quick eligibility check to see whether they qualify for VA health care benefits. It offers many more capabilities, too many to mention here but you can check it out at www.ebenefits.va.gov.

eBenefits answers the recommendations of the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors that DOD and VA make information about benefits and services available online, 24/7, via a password-protected site. With more than 1.6 million veterans and service members registered for eBenefits, it gets 24,000 daily visits averaging 19 minutes from users in 90 countries around the globe. The site has become a go-to source of benefits information previously only available by phone.

Veterans Benefits Management System
As a result of more than an 800,000 veteran compensation and disability claim backlog, the VA also requested SSC Atlantic's help in designing, developing, testing, deploying and hosting the Veterans Benefits Management System using an Agile software development approach. VBMS, deployed in July 2012, offers paperless processing and tracking of electronic veterans' disability claims.

Integrated Electronic Health Record
SSC Atlantic also has a small footprint in the integrated Electronic Health Record, a joint DoD/VA effort to create a single, common health record for all DoD and VA medical facilities. The program will become the nation's single largest health record system. SSC Atlantic provides two government engineers as consultants and analysts, and 10 architects to help develop an executable engineering strategy.

Thanks in no small measure to its partnership with SSC Atlantic, the VA has made IT a critical part of its fabric. By delivering these IT solutions to provide a paperless, digital disability claims system, SSC Atlantic is helping the VA transform how it operates, eliminating its backlogs and helping reach its goal of claim completion in less than 125 days with 98 percent accuracy by 2015.

"Find Jobs"
Since November 2011, SSC Atlantic's VA Web Portal Development Integrated Product Team has been helping link veterans with veteran-preferred industry job postings with deployment of a new job search capability, "Find Jobs," within the Veteran's National Resource Directory website. NRD connects wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families and caregivers with those who support them, providing access to more than 14,000 national, state and local services and resources supporting recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration. To implement the Find Jobs capability, SSC Atlantic worked hand-in-hand with Google and leading national job boards to enable veteran job seekers to search based on keyword, location, or Military Occupational Code.

Our work with the VA has allowed us to hone skills such as Agile software development that can be applied across the many Navy programs in which we are involved.

I am incredibly proud of the role SSC Atlantic has played in helping the VA shape and change the lives of service members, veterans, their families and survivors by better connecting them to their benefits. It is a great reflection of the dedication and commitment of the SSC Atlantic team. Besides our IT solutions, SSC Atlantic's commitment also includes hiring wounded warriors. During the first half of this year SSC Atlantic hired 38 wounded warriors, which represents 13 percent of all 288 hires during that period. SSC Atlantic is leading the SPAWAR claimancy in this effort, nearly doubling its 7-percent hiring goal.

When I raised my hand and took the oath that day back in 1982, I never imagined I'd return to the Lowcountry as a captain to lead this amazing organization. And I certainly never envisioned I'd one day be contemplating life as a veteran after more than 30 years of serving my country. But having seen what a difference we are making to improve the lives of veterans and their families by connecting them with their benefits, the future is looking pretty bright.



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