Plain Language (Updated for 2016)
The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to write "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use." President Obama also emphasized the importance of establishing "a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration" in his January 21, 2009, Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to writing new documents in plain language by October 2011, using the Federal Plain Language Guidelines and following the Office of Management and Budget's final guidance issued on April 13, 2011.
We need your help to comply with this Act! Let us know if you have trouble understanding our documents or the pages on our Web site. Send an email to VAPlainLanguage@va.gov
Senior Agency Officials
Tonia Bock, Executive Secretary, and Jennifer Smith Jessup, Deputy Secretary from the Office of the Secretary, Office of the Executive Secretariat, have oversight responsibility for VA's plain language efforts. Rachel Eisinger-Baskin at (202) 461-4869 is responsible for VA’s Plain Language Working Group. Other Department Points of Contact are: Ms. Katrice Pasteur, Director, Office of Executive Correspondence, Veterans Health Administration; Ms. Andrea Downs, Executive Reviewer, Veterans Benefits Administration; and Ms. Dannielle Blumenthal, Chief, Executive Correspondence, National Cemetery Administration. They can be reached at VAPlainlanguage@va.gov
We are training our employees and have strengthened our oversight process to ensure that you— the reader—will benefit from our products and services. To this end, we intend to use plain language in any document that:
- is necessary for obtaining VA benefits or services;
- provides information about any VA benefit or service; or
- explains to the public how to comply with a requirement that VA administers or enforces.
To help us comply with this Act and evaluate our progress, we invite you to contact us with feedback on the following topics:
- Our Plain Writing Action Plan
- Difficulty understanding our documents or information on our public Web site
- Use of plain language in our public meetings
VA Directive 0001
You can review the Department of Veterans Affairs Plain Language Implementation Plan here.
Plain Language Committee
VA has organized a committee of Plain Language points of contact from the three Administrations and Staff offices to:
- Assist in the review and revision of policy and guidance.
- Monitor VA compliance with the Plain Writing Act.
- Promote VA's implementation plan.
- Share best practices and resources.
Plain Language Compliance Report
The Department's Plain Writing Act Compliance report provides an overview of our implementation efforts.
Plain Writing Resources
The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is the official interagency working group designated to assist in issuing plain writing guidance. The PLAIN Web site includes guidelines on plain language and tools for writing in plain language.
- Federal Plain Language Web Site
- Word Suggestions
- Before and After Examples
- Tips and Tools
- Writing Regulations in Plain Language
VA continues to strive to improve how well we communicate with our primary target audience, our Nation’s Veterans and their families. VA’s Learning University (VALU) developed a series of classes to educate Department employees who write policies, reports, memos, briefs, and other business documents. Employees are also learning to apply plain language techniques and document testing skills to perform Plain Language compliance testing on multi-use documents (documents sent out to hundreds and thousands of people).
Free on-line training is available to the public at the following sites: