Barbara C. Morton
Department of Veterans Affairs
People always ask me why I would want to work for the government and why the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I always answer that it is because I am a shameless patriot who loves her country, and I want to serve a very special cadre of individuals who sacrificed to serve a cause greater than themselves. In my way, I want to contribute to honoring and caring for our Nation’s heroes, their families, caregivers, and survivors because they represent the greatest of all of us.
As a lawyer, people are also curious about how I ended up in VA’s Veterans Experience Office (VEO). I tell them that my journey began with an interaction I had with a Veteran a number of years ago – before VEO was established. One day, I received a phone call from a World War II Veteran. It was somewhat unusual for me to receive a direct call, and I don’t recall how he came across my number, but I am glad he did. He was understandably concerned about his benefits appeal and was confused about where his case was in the appeals process. I could tell he was very anxious. I spoke with him for a while to understand how I could help. I took his contact information and started digging in to the issue to help find a way forward.
It turned out that his file had to be rebuilt with important records, a process that took a number of weeks. During this time, I called him each week to check in and give him an update. Once the file was rebuilt, I delivered the good news and let him know that everything was back on track. The Veteran thanked me and gave me the greatest compliment I have ever received: he said that he trusted me because he knew I would take care of him.
The site has measurably increased by 11 percent – proof that when you listen to and design around those you serve, you will produce better results for them.
This is why I work in the Veterans Experience Office. This is what drives me. I want to replicate this type of personal experience for every Veteran, every family member, every caregiver, and every survivor that VA has the honor of serving. I am only one of many, in VA and across Federal government, who are driven by this core passion and commitment. This incredible cadre of public servants together is moving the needle to keep the perspectives and experiences of those we serve at the center of how we go about delivering services because we are here to serve the public first, not the bureaucracy.
A tangible example of how we are trying to better serve Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors by incorporating their perspectives and feedback is the recent redesign of VA.gov. We heard from Veterans and their supporters that VA.gov is difficult to understand and navigate, so we worked with a group of best-in-industry technologists from the White House to rebuild the website around Veteran feedback and the most frequently used VA services. We tested it with Veterans, refined the language, provided easy to follow steps,and launched it in November 2018. Since that time, Veteran satisfaction with the site has measurably increased by 11 percent – proof that when you listen to and design around those you serve, you will produce better results for them.