Big data highlights big delays in veteran care

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The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) are capitalizing on the power of social media, analytics tools, and data visualization technology.  They’re using these capabilities not just to recruit and serve members, but to monitor and report on the quality of veteran care across the country.  These projects help public officials shift resources to underserved veterans.  The website 1to1 Media recently interviewed IAVA’s CEO about these initiatives:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Gives Data a Seat at the Table

The nonprofit organization uses data visualization and social media tools to uncover insights about female veterans and more.

By Judith Aquino | Published 01/20/2016 in 1to1 Media

For-profit businesses aren’t the only organizations that are leveraging data analytics and online tools—nonprofit organizations like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) are also investing in better member experiences.

As the largest organization for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, IAVA helps veterans successfully transition back to civilian life. 1to1 Media spoke with IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff about the organization’s use of data collection tools and social media.

1to1 Media: In what ways did your organization need help to better reach and engage veterans?

Paul Rieckhoff: Our veterans’ population is young—the average age is in the late 20’s. They’re also digital natives, but extremely geographically and ethnically diverse. One of our biggest challenges is trying to connect 3 million people who are spread out across the world. Technology provides their connection to home.

We began working with Salesforce six years ago and they’ve empowered us to do a lot from a shoestring budget, from getting the veterans connected to their families, building an online community, and collecting information to better understand a veteran’s needs. On Veterans Day, for example, we organized 144 events around the country in one week. Salesforce allowed us to do everything from marketing to check-ins to social media integration to getting people in touch with a therapist.

Do you have an example of an insight about your members that you discovered and were able to implement to improve your service?

Our generation of veterans is different in a lot of ways but one aspect in particular is that 20 percent of our members are women. And they’ve had unique challenges accessing healthcare and getting child care support. We were able to drill down and find out what their experiences were like in the Veteran Affairs system.

What we found out was a female veteran’s experience was much worse than their male counterparts in getting support. We were also able to share that data with Congress. We testified before Congress at least 18 times [in 2015]. Every time we go before Congress, we use this data to share what’s happening on the ground for women veterans.

In some ways we have better data than the Secretary of Veteran Affairs. We’re able to explain to him where the gaps are and what women veterans are looking for from the VA. Many of our women members are also frustrated in getting recognition as veterans. So it’s a cultural transformation that has led all the way to women registering as rangers and the military allowing women into combat roles. We’re part of that movement in making the case that women can do anything that men can.

How do you gather data?

We have systems in place that allow us to connect with the veterans on their cellphones or via social media. For instance, if a woman is having challenges getting healthcare, and she reaches out to us on Twitter, one of our case managers can get in touch by phone, email, or social media within 24 hours. That gets entered into a case that goes into our systems.

We get other data on a regular basis from web traffic, phone calls, and donations. A lot of it is user generated…

City denies disabled vet’s plan for iPad-controlled smart home

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Taylor Morris, a Navy veteran who was injured defusing a bomb in Afghanistan, and his wife want to build a “smart home” in Cedar Falls, Iowa, that he can operate with a mobile device.  The property they want to buy is zoned for agriculture.  The Cedar Falls city council has denied the Morrisses’ request to have it rezoned residential.

It’s hard to judge a rezoning application without seeing the actual plans.  However, the reasons for the denial (as reported by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier) are flimsy.  The main reason cited is that approval would have “set a bad precedent.”  This is specious because there probably isn’t a backlog of rezoning applications from quadriplegic war veterans in the Cedar Falls zoning department.  If a similar application came through by somebody without a disability, the city could justify a different decision based on the difference circumstances of the applicants.

The second stated reason for denial is that the property is too difficult to access for providing public services.  That is probably a legitimate concern assuming the site is tricky for trash pick-up, police, fire service, etc.  However, the city has in their long-term plans an objective to rezone the area to residential anyway.  Wouldn’t approval help Cedar Falls make progress toward their own plan?

I really hope that city officials will redouble their efforts to work with the veteran and his wife.  Mr. Morris is trying to take advantage of technological innovations on the market to live a more comfortable life with his family.  It’s the kind of residential development that most communities would want to promote.

Company aims to help veterans get published

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If you know a military veteran who is trying to become a published author, tell them to check out BooksbyVeterans.  The publishing services company helps veterans navigate their options in the publishing world.  BooksbyVeterans is operated under Graybeard Books, which also does works to bring military writing to the market.

Bouhammer.com, a military issues blog, says that “as someone who knows many veteran authors and knows a lot more who would like to be authors but they aren’t sure how to start in order to tell their story, this is great news.”

BooksbyVeterans and Graybeard offer a free appraisal.  They appear to offer self-publishing and agent-based services.  As competitive as the publishing world is, veterans can use every advantage available.