Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Matthew Quinn prioritizes technology in veterans’ memorial programs.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Commemorative Affairs discusses the NCA’s progress at the 2022 DAV National Convention in Orlando, Florida. Photo credit: GovCIO Media & Research
Two National Cemetery Administration programs are leveraging digital services to honor and commemorate the legacy of buried veterans.
One of these is the Veterans Legacy Memorial – a memorial platform that allows the public to pay their respects to veterans buried in the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemeteries and Tribal, State, and Territorial Veterans Cemeteries. funded by VA grants.
“[VLM is] a way for families to keep in touch with this veteran. The memory of this veteran lives on,” Matthew Quinn, VA Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs, told GovCIO Media & Research Saturday at the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Convention in Orlando. “I went out and just wrote, ‘Dad, I’m thinking of you,’ or my brother, ‘Pat, I’m thinking of you.’ It’s heartwarming for us as family members, but for other family members who said, ‘hey, they thought of my loved one.
The other is a similar program in the way it keeps veterans’ memories alive, but with a different mission.
Under the Veterans Legacy Program, the NCA partners with schools and colleges to develop history curricula, or “vignettes,” as Quinn described it, on veterans buried. This work ultimately leads to the development of historical media that can be shared with the general public.
The program is also exploring innovative approaches to technology to support this work.
“They’re doing augmented reality, and I just visited the administrator at the University of Central Florida who’s doing the whole cemetery and the views for each of these veterans,” Quinn said.
Through the Office of Veterans Experience, VA continues to leverage user feedback to improve its services by better understanding the experiences of veterans and their family members, and then iterating on current platforms.
“We went to them to see how we can better improve [VLM]. One of the things we’ve done is make it more mobile-friendly,” Quinn said. “Rather than going back to a computer and loading something, they can do it on their mobile device and put a memory there – maybe a picture of them next to the grave.”
The function of technology in memorialization is one of Quinn’s highest priorities. Quinn would like the NCA to leverage some of the techniques that its counterpart, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), has used to automate claims to determine eligibility for internment in a national cemetery.
“There should be an automated method. If VBA can make a decision on claim eligibility within days, NCA shouldn’t take three months,” Quinn said separately during a convention seminar in Orlando on Saturday.
Similar approaches could streamline appointment scheduling within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Quinn added. Ultimately, this contributes to the agency’s priority of meeting the veteran where they are.
“Technological advancements are one of my top priorities,” Quinn said. “I want to make the experience for veterans more user-friendly so that when they are looking for a family member or the veteran is looking for a final resting place, their interaction with us is as easy as possible. That’s very important, and I think technology will help us get there.