U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Sharing data to support veterans

Project

USVA Open Data

Tech Specs

  • Drupal 7
  • DKAN Open Data Portal
  • FedRAMP compliant hosting
  • Docker
  • CircleCI
  • JIRA Service Desk

Background

Veteran data needs improvement

The open data portal for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USVA) is one of the most prominent and important sites in the open data landscape. It is used to meet federal open data requirements and also to share information about veterans and their services with those who will use the data to help veterans. The site is powered by DKAN, an open source open data platform used by many governments around the world to publish data.

USVA’s open data portal was struggling to reach its full potential. The agency required help to improve the usability and accuracy of its data, and also needed to train new staff (with varying technical abilities) on how to upload and manage data properly. CivicActions, as the maintaining organization for DKAN, stepped in to provide support and partnership to the dedicated USVA open data team.

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Approach

Managing mountains of data

USVA needed help improving many datasets that had been uploaded without appropriate metadata or correct formatting. We showed agency staff how to make their data as useful and findable as possible.

Telling stories to help veterans

We helped USVA create maps and visualizations — “data stories” — that make the data more accessible to the average person. From opioid prescription rates to equity for minority vets, data stories act as compelling narratives to help people identify patterns and solutions.

Custom tools for accurate data

We helped USVA improve the accuracy of its data by creating a link checker that tracks down broken URLs and helps prevent future errors. We also made reports to help USVA staff curate the datasets that are frequently added by the agency’s sub-departments.

What is the most useful data?

USVA creates a staggering amount of data during its daily operations, but not all of it is actually valuable to the public. We trained agency staff on the use of website analytics so they can better understand which datasets and data stories are most frequently viewed.

Mobile and printer friendly

USVA was struggling with charts and data stories that were impossible to display properly on a mobile device or as a PDF. We made improvements to ensure that all the department’s data would be mobile accessible and printer-friendly.

Keeping good data records

The USVA data portal houses thousands of datasets. We trained agency staff to use DKAN’s harvest module to create accurate records for data that is frequently updated.

Impact

  • Researchers, developers, and policy makers can use VA data to improve outcomes for veterans
  • USVA open data is more accurate and up-to-date
  • Interactive data stories make it easier for the general public to understand the data
  • People can access veteran-related data in printer- or mobile-friendly formats
  • USVA staff are better prepared to identify, upload, and manage the most important data
  • Improvements to the USVA open data platform will benefit other agencies using DKAN

Explore

See the data

Data.va.gov

Learn about DKAN open data

Visit getDKAN.org

How data can help veterans

Data to combat the opioid epidemic
Final resting places that honor veterans
Health equity report to protect vulnerable veterans

160,000

people visited
data.va.gov in 2017

3,739

datasets housed
on data.va.gov

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