Creating a COVID-19 dashboard to help the VA prioritize their response


Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

When the COVID-19 pandemic became more serious in early 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) faced the challenge of responding quickly and effectively to help protect the people they serve, including Veterans, their family members, and caregivers.

The challenge

To mitigate the pandemic’s impact on Veterans, the VA needed to ensure that time and resources were invested early in the tools and services that would have the most impact. VA leaders needed timely and accurate data on how Veterans were using VA services to help support those investment decisions.

What we did

With support from Ad Hoc, our prime contractor Oddball and our team partner Empirical Path, the VA quickly built a COVID-19 digital response dashboard to help measure the trajectory and success of their COVID-19 digital services.

The team gathered multiple data sources that had previously been isolated and inaccessible, such as call center feedback and website usage, into a new dashboard that presented a single, simple way for the VA COVID-19 Joint Task Force to view tool and service usage and feedback in one place.

The impact

Using data from VA Call Centers and’s traffic analytics, the dashboard was able to help the VA answer questions like:

  • How are Veterans contacting the VA about COVID-related issues?
  • What COVID-19 topics are Veterans looking for?
  • How are Veterans using COVID-19 digital tools?
  • What are Veterans talking about?

Improving communication with veterans

During the beginning of the pandemic, the VA stopped collecting debt payments from Veterans. They soon, however, noticed spikes on social media and in call center questions regarding billing. After researching the issue, the VA discovered those who managed the COVID-19 FAQ page were unaware of the pause in debt letters. The VA immediately clarified the matter using SMS and their FAQ page stating that during the pandemic, Veterans were not required to make debt payments.

Using data to inform changes in products and priorities

In early 2020, many Veterans were looking for information on debt, copays, and stimulus payments. The VA had been sharing a significant amount of information about healthcare, but after seeing a spike in financial topics, they shifted their content to match those search results.

Going beyond traffic numbers

The dashboard also included sentiment analysis data—what Veterans were actually saying—which helped VA teams go beyond the traffic numbers to better understand the hardships Veterans were experiencing. The VA has used the dashboard to inform its weekly digital response report sent to other federal agencies and tailor its response to Veterans’ needs.

What's next

We’re continuously evolving the dashboard so the VA has the best data to inform their decisions and keep up with the rapidly changing circumstances of the pandemic. For example, Ad Hoc and Oddball helped the VA with data warehousing efforts that improved and increased the automation and accuracy of our current data, the availability of data sources and metrics, and the relationality of those data sources. This gives the VA better confidence in the data they’re using to make decisions and a wider field of view to make sure they have everything they need to create the best strategy for Veterans.

Our analytics work during the COVID-19 pandemic helped us support VA’s data-informed culture so that the VA can better serve Veterans during a time of crisis, and we look forward to using this approach to help the VA improve all of its digital products.

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