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Paul Shute, chief of operational innovation at the Department of Veterans Affairs, discusses VA’s new database for mental health benefits, and why it’s dropped benefit award times from six months to six minutes.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is working on improving customer experience across the agency. One way they’re looking to accomplish that by streamlining verification for benefits. A new database of military events allows investigators at VA to look up whether veterans were involved in incidents that could cause PTSD or other mental health issues. For their efforts, the team who created this database are finalists for a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America MedalPaul Shute, chief of operational innovation at Veteran Affairs, says that the database represents a major modernization breakthrough.


“This is a great example of how we can share data across federal agencies to really modernize our business processes. When we’re able to have information proactively and at the moment the veteran comes to file a claim, we are really able to do amazing things,” Shute said. “When our adjudicators have the information they need to make decisions, they can make very accurate and quick decisions on veterans claims.”


Shute said that the team was able to get the database running so quickly because of their small size and clever thinking.


“We’re an innovation shop, so we have to be lean and scrappy. That was the beauty of Working with David and Chris. They used their ingenuity to leverage an existing tool that was out there and really just repurpose this data to make sure it is all possible,” Shute said. “It wasn’t an extensive IT project, in fact, it wasn’t an IT project at all. We just used the technology that existed and presented that data to our adjudicators through that tool.”

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