Alaska Veterans Office Earns National Recognition
DMVA Office of Veterans Affairs Wins Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award
The Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs accepted the Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award on Feb. 27, 2017. From left: DVA Secretary David Shulkin, OVA Director Verdie Bowen.
Photo courtesy of Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs
The Alaska Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) has won a national award for their Alaska Veterans Information Software (VIS) system. The VIS system is a more accurate means of locating, accounting for, and reaching out to Alaska veterans.
“There are more than 73,000 veterans in Alaska, with an additional 161,000 dependents,” OVA Director Verdie A. Bowen, Sr. said. “The better we can track their needs, requests, and assistance, the better we can deliver the benefits our veterans earned and help them and their families. Those benefits are not only important to those individuals, but constitute a huge economic boost to the entire state.”
David J. Shulkin, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), presented Bowen with the Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award at a Washington, DC ceremony February 27th. Lincoln Awards recognize superior delivery of services, increased access to VA benefits and services, elimination of claims backlogs, addressing veteran homelessness, and innovative state programs. Alaska’s award was in the latter category.
Governor Bill Walker joined Secretary Shulkin in praising the work of Alaska’s OVA. “Alaskans created this innovative database for 90% less than the program upon which it was modeled,” Walker said, “and they paid for the work with federal money from the DVA Office of Rural Health. This is exactly the kind of nimble thinking the Walker/Mallott Administration likes to recognize in our state agencies. Congratulations to Director Bowen and his team.”
Alaska modeled its VIS program on a system used by Utah’s Division of Veterans Affairs. Utah paid over $3.5M for their application; the total cost of Alaska’s program was just $100,000.00.
Knowing this cost could not be covered in the midst of a fiscal crisis, OVA explored other ways to deliver the same program. Once they completed development this year, the Office had created a much better for far under the original cost.
“There are now several states using this program model at the reduced price,” Bowen said, “and we have already started our next initiative – to add Alaska’s incarcerated veterans in a separate module. If we can identify and develop VA benefits packages before these veterans rejoin their communities, we can increase their chances of maintaining new lives as productive citizens instead of re-offending and going back into the corrections system. That would be a plus for all Alaskans.”
Funding for this effort is from an Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority grant. OVA expects the new module to be up and running later this year.
Secretary Shulkin awarded the honor to Alaska at the annual conference of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA). He also recognized Virginia, Washington, Alabama, and North Dakota. Bowen serves as NASDVA Senior Vice President.