Promoting Veteran Enrollment in eBenefits
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Benefits Assistance Service (BAS)
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) created the eBenefits web portal to offer Service members, Veterans, and their family members an online, self-service resource to quickly and easily access essential VA and DoD benefits, services, and documents. Initial functionality and performance on the site were often identified as poor. While the system continued to evolve and incorporate new and more advanced features to enhance usability, enrollment in eBenefits remained low, as the majority of Veterans remained unaware of its existence. In 2012, in coordination with the launch of a new, easier online registration process, DIS was tasked with conducting a marketing campaign to increase awareness and enrollment in eBenefits. DIS developed a national marketing and strategic communications campaign to encourage Veterans to electronically file disability claims through eBenefits, the joint online web portal of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). The campaign strategy included a communications plan, radio and TV PSAs, material development, partner outreach, and training to internal audiences.
To better understand how Veterans and internal stakeholders interacted and used eBenefits, DIS conducted a series of interviews and evaluated existing eBenefits user data and other customer service feedback. Based on this research, DIS created and tested potential new messaging, branding materials, and PSA approaches with Veterans to understand what products and messaging tactics resonated best. DIS quickly found that Veterans wanted direct and to-the-point messaging and products. These findings led DIS to create a direct and comprehensive communications outreach campaign to rebrand and drive awareness to the eBenefits web portal, increase the number of Premium Account users, and more effectively engage Veterans, Service members, and their families about the range of self-service resources available through the website.
Much of the campaign's success came from tapping into existing VA and partner outreach channels to reach the diverse Veteran population. To leverage NASCAR'S strong Veteran following, DIS fostered a partnership with NASCAR to earn media and develop a series of radio and TV PSAs featuring NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman.
Despite no paid media, the campaign generated a 209 percent increase in Premium Account users during its first six months. Since its launch in 2013, the PSA campaign has generated more than $11.3 million in earned media, and the number of eBenefits account users has increased from 278,000 in 2011 to more than five million users today. Driving Premium Account enrollment allows Veterans to quickly and easily access the benefits they have earned and deserve from their service to our country.
The eBenefits campaign was also awarded a PRSA 2015 Silver Anvil Award of Excellence under the category, Public Service-Government.
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