The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) extended the scope of their partnership on April 15 when representatives approved a joint strategic planning initiative to deliver seamless, cost-effective, quality services to veterans, servicemembers, military retirees and their families.
VA Deputy Secretary Leo S. Mackay Jr. and Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S. C. Chu signed the agreement at a quarterly meeting of the VA/DoD Joint Executive Council, which they co-chair.
"This is an important step because it provides a framework with specific goals for delivering high quality services and benefits to servicemembers and veterans. It ensures the process will continue into the future," said Mackay.
"Our aim is to build a world-class partnership guided by principles of collaboration, stewardship and leadership," Chu said. "This approach will help us provide the best value for our beneficiaries as well as the taxpayer. It also recognizes both our common and unique mission requirements and ensures accountability for the results."
Among the plan's goals are efforts to improve access to benefits, streamline application processes, eliminate duplicated requirements and smooth other business practices that complicate servicemembers' transition from active duty to veteran status. This will be done by ensuring servicemembers are aware of benefits, eligibility rules and services available to them from both VA and DoD.
These benefits include healthcare, educational assistance, home loans, disability compensation, pension, insurance, burial and memorial services.
The ability to transfer data from DoD to VA quickly, easily and securely is a key element to making the transition seamless. In addition to enhancing and expanding the technical capability of DoD and VA information systems, an "Information Sharing Task Force" will be established under the VA-DoD Benefits Executive Council to develop a plan to automate the data collection process so necessary information is received in a timely and accurate manner.
VA and DoD also plan improved coordination of their business processes to better manage capital assets, leverage their combined purchasing power, develop complementary workforce plans, and find ways to enhance other key business functions.