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FCW : January 2015
22 January 2015 FCW.COM As chief technology officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs for the past year and a half, Marina Martin has been streamlining VA’s disparate online customer relation- ships into a service that is focused on veterans. The effort will kick into high gear in 2015 for a couple of rea- sons. First, VA Secretary Bob McDonald is in the midst of a reorganization designed to make the department more responsive and its online services easier to navigate. Second, Martin is leading the charge to bring in a new digital services team at VA. She’s taking applications for founding mem- bers who will be hired for two-year appointments (with the possibility of a four-year extension) at GS-15 pay levels. The approach mirrors that of the General Services Administration’s 18F and the Office of Management and Budget’s U.S. Digital Service. The idea is to bring in a group of outside technologists with experi- ence in the latest tools, agile work styles and design principles, and disseminate that expertise throughout large government organizations. Martin won’t say how many peo- ple she plans to hire but said the founding group will be in the “high double digits” — enough people to break into subteams to work on high-impact mission areas such as modernizing the delivery of health care and benefits and improving the digital experience. Martin spoke with FCW’s Adam Mazmanian by phone on Dec. 17. The interview has been edited for clarity. What are your priorities as CTO of VA? My priority has been on digital ser- vice delivery to veterans and how we can collaborate more internally and place new technology to [pro- vide] better and better services to veterans. There’s a long-term goal of giving veterans a single point of access where they can sign on and access the entire suite of VA services. We definitely want a veteran- centric digital experience, so we look at their needs holistically with how they interact with the agency. Instead of them having to know how to navigate VA and how we’re structured, we should be where they’re looking for us. Digitally, we can do things like follow their search term paths, make sure that they’re being addressed, make sure the infor- mation is conveyed in a human- readable form and make sure their needs are being met in one place across different business lines. What products or projects have you been working on to achieve that? The GI Bill Comparison Tool allows veterans to understand the benefits they can receive from the GI Bill at different schools for different pur- poses and across different chapters [or sections of the legislation]. It takes data that was previously available from multiple different agencies in multiple different for- mats with multiple different unique identifiers and makes a simple tool where the veteran can just indicate their number of years of service and the school they want to attend and see a very detailed breakdown of the benefits available, which is particularly important for many vet- erans who may qualify for benefits under more than one chapter. That is one example of collabo- ration across agencies that gave veterans a very simple tool that met their needs in a way that we weren’t meeting before. The Veterans Employment Center [is] a cross-agency collaboration involving Labor, Defense and parts of VA to provide veterans one place in the federal government that they Marina Martin: Building a new digital service at VA Fir stPerson The Department of Veterans Affairs’ chief technology officer talks about overhauling the digital experience for VA customers DRAGUTINCVIJANOVIC 0115fcw_022-024.indd 22 1/7/15 9:19 AM
November and December 2014