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GSA Awards ACES Digital Signature Certificates to Department of Veterans Affairs

GSA # 9613

July 25, 2000
Contact: Hap Connors or Eleni Martin (202) 501-1231
hap.connors@gsa.gov; eleni.martin@gsa.gov

WASHINGTON - Under its Access Certificates for Electronics Services (ACES) contract, the U.S. General Services Administration awarded 100,000 digital signature certificates to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The digital signature certificates are part of 500,000 certificates that will be distributed free of issuance cost to agencies over the next year. Digital signature certificates are used to verify the identity of individuals when they digitally sign documents over the Internet.

The VA will use digital signature certificates as part of an initiative to simplify the processes involved in applying for and using veterans' benefits. Initially, the certificates will be used in the Veterans On-Line Application (VONAPP) program for VA educational, compensation, pension, and vocational rehabilitation benefits. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 veterans will be using this service by the end of next summer.

Digital signature certificates will also be used in two other VA programs. The Internet School Enrollment Certification (VANetCert) application will allow colleges and universities to electronically certify a veteran's enrollment prior to the release of educational benefits. Currently, they perform the certification via modem. VANetCert will allow colleges and universities to certify using the Internet. Also, using this application, they will be able to view a portion of the student record maintained by the VA. This would allow them to answer students' questions concerning the status of their VA education benefits. Electronic enrollment information received from colleges and universities will be transferred directly to an expert processing system, which will process the information without human intervention. Beginning in September, VANetCert will use 150 digital signature certificates for approximately 50 colleges and universities as part of the pilot effort.

The VA's Web Automated Enrollment Certification (WAVE) will allow veterans who are using the Montgomery GI Bill to verify their enrollment status monthly over the Internet. Currently the VA prints and mails monthly verification of enrollment forms that must be returned by mail and manually processed by the VA prior to the release of payments. The veteran also has the option of providing this verification by telephone. WAVE will allow veterans to do this electronically. The service will be available later this fall for veterans holding digital signature certificates from the VONAPP program.

The common public key infrastructure or "PKI" will allow the American public to electronically access privacy-related U.S. Government information and services over the Internet. ACES is intended to provide identification, authentication, and non-repudiation via the use of digital signature technology as a means for individuals and business entities to be authenticated when accessing, retrieving, and submitting information with the government. It is a key initiative in assisting the agencies' response to the Government Paperwork Elimination Act.

Under the half million certificates task order, Digital Signature Trust of Salt Lake City, Utah will issue up to 400,000 certificates and AT&T will issue up to 100,000 over a one-year period. Both companies will act as Certificate Authorities for the certificates. These authorities, acting as neutral third parties, maintain the identity and public key information for each individual or business, enabling Federal agencies to rely upon the authenticity of the certificates for interactions with the public and the business sector.

For more information on the VA's electronic applications, contact Steve Westerfeld at 202-273-5201. For additional information on ACES, contact Helen Chapman at 202-205-9639 or Helen.Chapman@gsa.gov, or visit the ACES web site at http://www.gsa.gov/aces.