Bill would require VA, DOD to create a Web portal for veterans

By Molly Merrill
09:19 AM

A new bill would require the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to create an Internet-based portal for veterans to access their records and benefits.

The Improving Veterans' Electronic Transition Services Act (iVETS Act) was introduced by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (Mass.-5) to improve the process veterans and their families have to go through in order to transfer their military records and benefit information from military to civilian life.

The bill models the Web portal after the Defense Knowledge Online system, which all active duty military members use to access their official military personnel file, but which they lose access to once they become veterans. Tsongas says the bill would allow the DoD and VA to assess the feasibility of providing electronic access to information such as healthcare, service, and benefits records through a platform that is already familiar to new veterans.

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"The current lack of access to official military personnel files places an unnecessary and frustrating burden on veterans and limits the continuum of care and support they need for transition from active servicemember to veteran," said General Gordon Sullivan, president of the Association of the United States Army. "Establishment of a veteran-specific Web portal would make it much easier to for servicemembers, as they transition to veteran status, to have seamless access to their service, benefit, and healthcare information online."

"The Department of Veterans Affairs provides services and benefits to almost eight million veterans; four million of those veterans have been added since 2001.

"This portal will provide unprecedented benefits to our veterans," For example, if a servicemember received an Army Achievement Medal for their actions when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, and as a veteran, they later start to experience TBI symptoms, the award citation - which would be part of their personnel electronic records - could help the veteran prove a service related connection and could expedite needed medical benefits." 

The legislation also allows for the creation of forums for veterans to talk to other veterans and care providers, a 'white pages' directory for veterans to find each other, a single source communication channel for the VA to inform veterans about new programs or benefits, and an email address so it is easier for the VA and veterans to communicate.

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