Recent changes in federal regulations meant that more than 200,000 Veterans became eligible for health care services through the Veterans Health Administration, which serves some 8 million of the country’s 23 million Veterans.
The Veterans Health Administration contracted Altarum Institute to develop and implement a marketing and communications strategy to reach these Veterans, providing information and encouraging them to apply for enrollment in VA.
“The strategy Altarum created for VA wasn’t necessarily innovative. It was nothing that hadn’t been done in the world before—but it was something the VA had never done before,” explains project manager Tim Borchert. “The VA had traditionally been a gatekeeper – we’ve helped them to change that approach, making their communications more Veteran-friendly and easier to read.”
In less than a year, Altarum helped VA realize success, using a multifaceted outreach strategy that included online advertising, direct mail, and outreach to Veteran-serving organizations, such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. That effort led 170,000 visitors to the HEC website, of whom 151,000 started the application process, and 11,000 new Veterans enrolled in the program. The online strategy featured links through Google ad words, as well as banner ads that ran on websites likely to attract Veterans.
VA relies on Altarum for everything from creative work and copywriting, to vendor management and performance evaluation. Having developed expertise in online marketing, Dave says that the program hopes to branch out to include print ads in publications that appeal to Veterans.
“This has already led to potential new work with other VA marketing efforts, including some in the Office of Public Affairs. After completion of the original contract, Altarum had to compete for a new contract again. Altarum was selected, winning a five-year contract worth $5.6 million dollars,” Dave says. “We’ve developed a good reputation within the VA and we’ve been approached for other contracts. Our advantage is that we know the VA—we know how it works, we know what Veterans are like, and what they need.”
Dave attributes two key outcomes to the project, saying, “We’ve gotten more Veterans to enroll and we’ve helped VA learn how to better communicate with them, how to attract Veterans, and how to serve them. We’ve helped VA learn to communicate with Veterans in a way they understand, rather than the way that the VA understands.”
The work has been gratifying, he says. “I’m proud of the way we hit the ground running and learned quickly: we pulled together a team and hit a home run.” The work, which has engaged staff from several Altarum divisions, “helps to achieve the VA mission of providing Veterans the services they have earned.”
As part of the campaign to educate Veterans about VA health care and encourage them to enroll, Altarum developed two short videos. One video explains how to complete VA’s application for health benefits and was posted on VA’s website next to the link to the application. The other video was designed for use at demobilization events and provides an overview of VA health benefits.