A few weeks ago, we talked about the challenges facing veterans today and the work we are doing to to help veterans gain better access to the resources that they have earned through their service. Our Veterans Challenge hackathon challenged teams to find a way to support veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life by simplifying access to the 400,000 benefits, services, and organizations dedicated to serving them. Backed by research and guidance from the Department of Veterans Affairs and a range of subject matter experts, veterans and volunteer teams developed a variety of approaches to address the challenge.
As today is Veteran’s Day, it seems fitting to showcase the highlights from the hackathon.
VetMentor, who were elected the winners by a panel of experts, developed a tool for veterans to find peer to peer guidance and mentors. They noticed that while extensive information on the career paths of successful veterans can be found on the web, the process of finding this information is not user friendly. Their tool helps transitioning veterans assimilate into civilian life by matching them with other returned veterans and civilian mentors based on their location, desired industry or career path, and role in the military.
As team member Vivek Kumar explained, “this allows new veterans to find peer to peer guidance for both personal and professional issues, and allows civilians to be more involved in helping our veterans come back home.”
Vivek Kumar, Michael Kolodny, Pam Jue and Johan Yege
Photo credit: Matylda Czarnecka, Hackonauts
Vets for Success
Vets for Success combined a physical and digital experience in their solution. Their project included a welcome home kit including a welcome home letter, ID card identifying the recipient as a veteran, a buddy tag with information about local veterans, and coupons for social activities in the veteran’s hometown. The physical kit is backed by a location based social and lifestyle services online platform for veterans, which utilizes the mapping to identify local services and activities for veterans.
Team: Kevin Gong, Cheryl Hill, Bruce Lincoln, and Nga Nguyen
The Veteran Graph API
The Veteran Graph API took a more technical approach to the challenge. While there is extensive data on veterans and veterans’ services publicly available, the data is fragmented, unlinked, poor quality and can be difficult to access. The Veterans Graph API built a traversable graph of data under a unified API, to make it easier for people providing technology services for veterans. Their prototype started with ten VA datasets and the Bing Maps API, with the plan to expand the available data via partnerships with different government organizations, corporations, and non-profits.
Team: Sarah Duve, Aaron France, Prashanth Reddy, and Jane Wang
We are excited to continue working with our teams to develop their projects and to share their work with our partners at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
– Anna S. Roth, Bing