VA portal uses FAQs to guide applicants

VA portal uses FAQs to guide applicants

Basil White, a webmaster at the Veterans Affairs Department's IRM Office, has his own idea of how the Labor Department should design an eligibility portal.

He wants a portal that uses a variation of his VA HyperFAQ index, which guides users to what they're looking for by asking yes-or-no questions.

The same approach could work for any federal, state or local agency, White said. All of them could link to the FirstGov site through a button labeled Eligibility Assistance Online, but each would have its own tailored HyperFAQ version.

The portal could be finished in less than the planned two years, he said, because the approach bypasses the programming of eligibility logic for applicants. Labor would not need to require the other government participants to acquire special server software or contractor support, White said.

About a year ago, White designed the VA HyperFAQ index of frequently asked questions, which helps visitors navigate through VA's Web site. They answer no more than seven questions about the benefits they seek before HyperFAQ recommends the appropriate page.

White said he has just finished a prototype of the hyperlinked index for the Agriculture Department.

The storage issue is also important, he said, noting that VA's HyperFAQ pages take up only 550K. HyperFAQ uses what White called vanilla HTML written with a freeware ASCII text editor.

White said the portal would reduce the 'cognitive burden' on citizens and relieve agencies of some of their inquiry workload.

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