VA signs on to digital signatures

GSA's ACES site

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The General Services Administration jump-started the government's move to

digital signatures this week, awarding 100,000 free digital certificates

to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It is the first major award of digital certificates since President Clinton

signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, or

E-Sign, into law June 30 using the first digital certificate issued from

GSA.

The Veterans Benefits Administration will tap the digital certificates supplied

under GSA's Access Certificates for Electronic Services contract to help

veterans apply for health and education benefits online. The electronic

signature will have the same legal force as paper contracts.

The first online application is expected to be available within a month,

and complete online service will be ready early next year.

"Veterans will be able to complete a benefits application completely online

without having to sign a piece of paper," said Ted Van Hintom, assistant

director for operations at the VBA's education service.

The certificates will enable veterans to apply for such benefits as vocational

rehabilitation, compensation, pension and education over the Internet. They

also will be able to verify their continuing attendance at college completely

online.

To encourage use of the signatures, GSA is paying for 500,000 of them and

will be awarding them to qualified applicants.

"What you are seeing here is that agencies are eager to get the certificate.

VA was first to the plate. That is an indication that they are valuable

commodities," said Richard Guida, chairman of the Federal PKI Steering Committee.

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