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VA Launching New Customer-Oriented Website on Veterans Day

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The Veterans Affairs Department will be going live with a new website on November 11 -- Veterans Day -- one intended as a quick stop for veterans wanting information or to apply for benefits and services.

"Vets.gov" will not replace "va.gov," the VA’s main site, but will consolidate information pages and online applications for a range of programs, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits Danny Pummill said Tuesday during a veterans' summit sponsored by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and DefenseOne.

"[It’s] our first attempt at bringing everything together at one location, so veterans on Veterans Day will have one place to go and be able to find all the information there," he said.

Joe Davis, national spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the veterans group has yet to be briefed on the new site but considers it a positive step by the VA.

"Combining umpteen websites into one is an initiative that's long overdue. We look forward to its successful implementation," he said on Thursday.

The VA’s vision is to establish Vets.gov as a destination portal for veterans to be able to file for a benefit, check on a claim, add or remove a dependent, change addresses and more, but without first wading through other parts of the VA’s bureaucracy. Over time the VA plans to migrate from 300 to 400 va.gov sites over to Vets.gov, according to the specifications spelled out in the contract proposal published on the FedBizOpps site in early September.

The VA anticipates about 20,000 visits to the site on the first day. Just how many eventually will visit the site is unknown but the VA noted in its contract solicitation that the contractor "should plan for maximum general public usage."

When it goes live on Veterans Day Vets.gov will offer up instructions and steps for some of the agency’s most popular services and transactions, the VA said in a statement on Wednesday. Additional functions and tools will be added over the coming year, with "the ultimate goal [of making it] the single, one-stop shop for information and self-service for veterans and those that care for them," the statement said.

Pummill said VA Secretary Bob McDonald, who came to the department after a career with consumer products giant Procter and Gamble, has been driving VA officials and staff to be more "veteran-centric." McDonald has often said veterans are customers and it’s the VA’s responsibility to meet their needs.

"Is it going to work perfectly on the first day? Probably not. It’s a step in the right direction, something we should have done a long time ago," Pummill said.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com

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