Veteran Affairs 2016

The Question

How can the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs modernize its appeals process for disability benefits?

The Team

  • Chetan Jhaveri
  • Jane Labanowski
  • Paris Martin
  • Rohan Pavuluri
  • Joshua Welle

The Story

After retiring from the Navy, Josh started thinking about applying for disability benefits for the shooting pains in his back, bum knee, and hearing loss. As a combat veteran, Josh was no stranger to navigating tricky situations. But when Josh talked to his fellow veterans about the process for applying for disability benefits, they all said, “GET HELP!” Fortunately, there are dozens of veterans’ service organizations (VSO) that assist veterans like Josh to apply for disability benefits. But when Josh went to find a VSO, he was frustrated that they all seemed to have long waiting lists to see a representative. Worse still, Josh had to go in person to the offices of multiple VSOs and talk to the receptionist at each one to learn the time and date of the next available appointment.

Over the course of our semester-long course at the Harvard Kennedy School on Technology & Innovation in Government, our team has worked to improve the experience of U.S. veterans who are appealing their disability benefit decisions.

While the veterans came from different branches of the military and told us different stories, they faced many of the same problems.  

Based on our user research, we wanted to create a flexible platform where veterans could learn about all aspects of the disability benefits appeals process. Inspired by Khan Academy, an educational platform that uses bite-sized videos to explain complicated topics, we created Veterans Academy. The prototype allows veterans to see a flow diagram of the appeals process, and see short videos on the sections that pique their interest.

We felt honored to contribute to the mission of the public servants who dedicated their lives to working on the same problems we sought to address.


final insights presentation

user insights presentation