Since 2009, Brandon Friedman, director of online communications for the Veterans Affairs Department, has helped launch a VA blog, 150 Facebook pages and 70 Twitter feeds, all of which have garnered a wide audience of veterans.
Though Friedman, a former Army infantry officer who served with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq and Afghanistan, has many high-tech tools at his disposal, he has a simple mission: “Get the right information to the right veteran at the right time.”
That means using social media to provide the most basic information to vets in a new way, he says. VA’s blog, launched in 2009, is a prime example. Friedman says the most popular post on VAntage Point, by then-Deputy Undersecretary for Benefits Tom Pamperin in January 2011, served as a primer on the filing of a disability claim. It drew 676 responses.
Friedman, who wrote the memoir The War I Always Wanted: The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War in 2007, views VA social media as a key component of the coming home process, allowing vets to easily keep in touch with their comrades. Since VA hospitals are such a familiar institution for vets, Friedman ensured that 150 of the department’s 152 medical centers launched Facebook pages in 2011 as another form of outreach.
VA has only begun to tap the power and potential of this modern form of communication. While the department has developed a means to pump out information, Friedman says his next goal is to figure out how to harvest the material vets post on VA sites to help them even more.