How can "putting veterans at the center" overcome barriers and lead to new, improved experiences?

Doblin and Deloitte’s Government & Public Services team helped the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs see and realize new experience opportunities by applying design processes to organizational challenges.

The United States (US) Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the second largest department within the US Government, charged with caring for the nation’s veterans after they complete military service. VA administers earned benefits, oversees one of the largest integrated health care systems in the world with over 1,200 facilities, and maintains 130+ national cemeteries. Considering the US has a population of over 20 million veterans, providing excellent service to those veterans who served their country is of paramount importance for VA.

In 2015, in the midst of increased public scrutiny, a loss in veteran confidence, and a lack of employee engagement, VA took enterprise-level action to address barriers in serving Veterans and their families. Together as a team, Doblin and Deloitte’s Government & Public Services team, along with the Veterans Experience Office, and VA collaborators engaged Veterans, employees, and stakeholders in a three-step approach to help improve veterans’ experiences with service delivery at VA.

Think Big

By synthesizing hundreds of hours of qualitative research into easily digestible and powerful visualizations, our team facilitated productive conversations to align VA on veterans’ most urgent needs, assess the efficacy of current offerings, and identify and prioritize opportunities for high-impact design interventions.

Start Small

By starting small and initially focusing on easily implementable solutions, our team demonstrated immediate impact of both the method and design tools. We gained stakeholder buy-in evidenced by the adoption of the method across business units, built momentum resulting in new onboarding materials, and inspired the organization toward continued action—gaining critical buy-in across the administration and generating a virtuous cycle of positive improvements.

Act Fast

Through our build-test-learn approach, our team tested and designed prototypes quickly and collaboratively, rapidly iterating on the designs which resulted in products precisely tailored to veterans’ needs. Our rapid approach encouraged VA stakeholders to adopt similar methods within their own business units, scaling innovation and promoting incremental change immediately across VA.

Our work spanned both veteran- and employee-facing challenges and resulted in a new way of seeing and understanding how VA fits in veterans’ lives, new, easy to understand onboarding for those in active duty transitioning to civilian life, a revised hiring process that reduced the hiring time from 175 days to 30 days, new HR tools, and additional experiential interventions.

    We'd like to acknowledge Gregory Pellegrino, principal, and RJ Krawiec, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP for their leadership, commitment and contributions to this project.

    In the news:

    Read "How VA became one of the most admired agencies in the federal government" published by Fast Company on June 21, 2021.

    See the work in action:

    Watch "Secretary Wilkie talks Veterans Experience and VA Welcome Kit" - VA Secretary Robert Wilkie addressed the Student Veterans of America (SVA) National Conference via live stream from Washington, D.C. In his speech, Wilkie outlined his priorities and the role the Veterans Experience Office (VEO) plays in the department’s improvement.


    Veterans eligible to receive new onboarding system


    Days to fill employment vacancies


    Unified veteran-centric view of VA's 158 standalone offerings