2018 Government Innovation Awards

Rising Star: Nicholas Holtz

Digital Services Expert and Appeals Team Lead, U.S. Digital Service at the Department of Veterans Affairs

Nicholas Holtz 

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a reputation for bureaucracy, including backlogs and stacks of paperwork for patients. Nicholas Holtz is working to change that.

He used his previous experience at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to modernize the appeals process and reduce a five-year backlog of claims. In just 15 months, he coordinated the design, development and launch of five applications involving several external partners, including Nava.

“Nicholas changed the way the Digital Service at the Department of Veterans Affairs builds and buys technology and ultimately how government serves our nation’s veterans,” said Sunil Sadasivan, Nava’s senior engineering lead.

Holtz’s approach extended beyond the back end to connect straight to the system’s users — veterans, attorneys and judges — so that developers could receive direct feedback on the functionality and services users needed.

“As a result, regional offices can smoothly send appeals to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for review, attorneys can review documents for an appeal more efficiently, judges can prepare for hearings faster, and more,” one colleague said.

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