MilConnect puts military benefits all in one place
- By William Jackson
- Nov 18, 2013
Navigating the bureaucracy of military and veterans’ benefits can be a challenge, not only for Defense Department personnel and their dependents, but also for DOD offices that must track millions of beneficiaries. In the wake of sequestration budget cuts, the department is eager to move to online delivery of information and services as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to paper.
PROJECT AT A GLANCE
Name of project: milConnect
Office: Defense Manpower Data Center
Technology: Web application using custom shared libraries for loose coupling of dependencies, linking data from a variety of DOD, federal, state, local government and private sector sources.
Time to implementation: Originally launched in 2008 as MyDoDBenefits, updated and rebranded milConnect in 2011.
Before: Paper-based management of personnel and benefits records in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System for active and retired service members and their families.
After: Online management of data and enrollment for services by 42 million active duty and retired military personnel, DOD civilian personnel, Guard and Reserve members, their spouses and eligible dependents.
The recently rebranded and relaunched milConnect Web application is a portal for active and retired military personnel and their families to check, update and manage information about benefits and services from DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department. The site provides secure access to personal information, health care enrollments and personnel records 24-hours a day.
MilConnect began life in December 2008 as the MyDoDBenefits website and was made over for a relaunch in 2011 by the Defense Manpower Data Center, DOD’s personnel information service. DMDC maintains personnel, medical benefits, manpower, training, security and financial records for millions of active and retired members of the services and the reserves, civilian DOD personnel, spouses and eligible dependents.
MilConnect is the front end for the DMDC’s Defense Enrollment Eligibility System (DEERS), a database of information about all service members and dependents. Registration in DEERS is a requirement for receiving benefits under TRICARE, the healthcare program for uniformed service members. Because incorrect information in the DEERS database can cause delays in providing health care and other benefits, members are encouraged to keep information in the system updated. The online portal provides a convenient way for service members, retirees and their families to keep information up to date.
Authentication to the site can be done with the DOD Common Access Card, a Defense Financial and Accounting Services myPay account, or through a DOD Self Service Logon credential from DMDC. The site allows users to:
- Update contact information in DEERS
- View current health care enrollments
- Manage TRICARE enrollments
- Locate the nearest military ID card issuing facility
- View personnel information
- Transfer education benefits to eligible family members under the post-9/11 GI Bill
- View ID cards
- View group life insurance information
- Obtain proof of insurance under a TRICARE managed program
- Find answers to frequently asked questions.
Medical beneficiaries can receive automatic notifications on anniversaries that effect benefits, such as 18th, 21st, 23rd and 65th birthdays.
Revamping the milConnect Web application required collaboration with users of the site, the DOD workforce and beneficiaries; DOD services, Army, Navy Air Force, Marine Corps, national guards and reserves; operational programs providing security, health care, education and financial information; and contractors. MilConnect also collaborates with the Veterans Affairs Department, which implements eBenefits, the portal for information about benefits for veterans and their families.
The milConnect portal serves more than 42 million beneficiaries, and in addition to the website can be accessed through a mobile application for Android devices, available at Google Play. DMDC has plans to create applications for the iPhone and other platforms as well.
The site uses custom shared libraries for loose coupling of its dependencies, allowing a rapid development cycle and cohesive software modules to securely deliver real-time data from multiple sources. In addition to DOD and VA, data sources include the Health and Human Services Department, the Homeland Security Department, the Labor Department, the Social Security Administration, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, state public assistance agencies, and educational institutions.
Having a centralized source for information on military benefits has produced savings for both end users and DOD. Nearly 6 million benefit change notification letters to beneficiaries are generated annually by DMDC, and delivery of these letters online through milConnect has reduced the number of mailings for an estimated savings of $576,000 during the first year of the new site.