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Minnesota Wins National Award for Helping Veterans Access Education Benefits

3/4/2020 10:00:00 AM

Riccardo Williams

In late February the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs (MDVA) was awarded the Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award. This national award recognizes outstanding programs that support Veterans. The award was presented by VA Secretary Wilkie at the 2020 National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA) Mid-Winter Conference. MDVA won for its Veterans Application Tracking System (VATS.) 

VATS is an application system made in partnership with Minnesota IT Services (MNIT.) The system streamlines the process of Veterans and their families receiving the educational benefits granted by the Minnesota GI Bill. Through the Minnesota GI Bill, Veterans along with eligible spouses and children, have access to a maximum benefit of $10,000 to use for higher education, on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs, or to reimburse fees for licenses, certification or college admission exams. 

VATS has replaced a multitude of manual, paper-based procedures and is a complete overhaul of an aging application system. This new system includes automated workflows, online application, and a single database – allowing applicants the ability to complete this previously weeks-long process in just a day. The system is built to be flexible and accommodate the many needs of our Veterans. MNIT Commissioner Tarek Tomes had this to say about VATS: “The VATS-Education system is an amazing example of how technology can be utilized to create better outcomes for Minnesotans, especially for our Veterans. Veterans are not only entitled to these education benefits; they are entitled to be able to access those benefits in the most efficient way possible.” Streamlining this crucial process reduces frustration and gets Veterans to what they need faster than ever.

We are already seeing the positive impact that this system makes on our Veteran’s lives. “Applying for the Minnesota GI Bill through the Veterans Application Tracking System has allowed me to not only pay for classes and books but also allows me to reduce how much I had to take out in student loans, which will not only benefit me while I'm in school but far into the future,” said Veteran Raymond Camper. Camper is just one of the many Veterans benefitting from this new application system.

MDVA Commissioner Larry Herke was proud to accept this prestigious award, stating that, “MDVA understands the importance of the educational benefits granted by the Minnesota GI Bill. An education can both improve the lives of Veterans and the overall health of our community. We are committed to informing Veterans of the many possibilities available to them.” MDVA will continue to strive towards advancements like VATS which benefit Veterans and their families.

Pillars of Excellence Award
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