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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs


VA Announces Winners of 2011 Employee Innovation Competition

Oct. 18, 2011, 08:00:00 AM

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VA Announces Winners of 2011 Employee Innovation Competition

Six New Innovations Improve Employment Services for Disabled Veterans Entering the Workforce


WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced six winners of the 2011 Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative (VAi2) Employee Innovation Competition. The competition sought ideas from employees to help Veterans with disabilities related to their military service obtain meaningful employment. VA will develop, test, and potentially implement winning ideas for nationwide use in VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program.

“Every Veterans Benefits Administration employee who participated in VA’s 2011 Employee Innovation Competition helped to improve service to our Veterans,” said Allison A. Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits.  “Through the ingenuity of our employees and their deep understanding of what today’s Veterans need to gain good-paying jobs, we have a terrific set of innovations to pursue.”

The selected innovations have the potential to significantly improve the quality of services provided to participants in VA’s VR&E Program and to reduce the cost to taxpayers of delivering those services.

Winning ideas include: a paid internship program to help Veterans gain private-sector work experience; support systems for Post-9/11 Veteran-students with a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder; development of a mentorship program for Veterans from the employment community; providing Mental Health First Aid training to VR&E employees to increase their understanding of mental illness and enable them to provide the highest level of service to ensure successful Veteran outcomes; online verification of eligibility for VR&E services; and enhancements to the disbursement of education benefits in the form of a pre-loaded debit card for purchasing books and supplies.

 “Thousands of employees cast their votes through crowd sourcing, and top VA leadership made the final selections,” said VAi2 Director Jonah Czerwinski.  “These are the best of the best.  With this selection, we now have 16 innovations funded from the Veterans Benefits Administration employee competitions, many of which have been implemented and are positively affecting our service-delivery.”

Visit for a complete list and description of the winners.

VAi2 launched in spring of 2010 to identify, fund, and test new ideas and new tools that improve access, enhance quality, reduce costs, and improve Veteran satisfaction with VA services.  Visit for more information.

VA’s VR&E Program provides career counseling; education; training; a stipend during training; full payment of tuition, books, supplies, and equipment; job assistance; and medical and dental treatment in collaboration with the Veterans Health Administration to transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans with service-connected disabilities. 

More information about VR&E VetSuccess benefits and services is available from VA at  Veterans are encouraged to use VA’s web portal for online applications at


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