Vets API

Build Status Yard Docs Maintainability Test Coverage License: CC0-1.0

This project provides common APIs for applications that live on (formerly APIs).

For frontend, see vets-website and vets-content repos.

Base setup

See the native setup instructions if you can't use docker

To start, fetch this code:

git clone

  1. Install Docker Engine and Docker Compose for your platform. We strongly recommend Docker Desktop for Mac or Windows users.
  2. Setup key & cert for localhost authentication to
    • Create a folder in your vets-api directory: mkdir config/certs
    • Create an empty key and cert: bash touch config/certs/vetsgov-localhost.crt touch config/certs/vetsgov-localhost.key
  3. Disable signed authentication requests:

    # settings.local.yml
     authn_requests_signed: false
  4. Sidekiq Enterprise is used for worker rate limiting and additional reliability in production and requires a license be configured on your development machine. If you do not have a license configured, the open source version of Sidekiq will be installed instead. This is not an issue unless you are specifically developing features that need Sidekiq Enterprise.

    [If you do need Sidekiq Enterprise, you can follow instructions here to install the enterprise license on their systems.

DO NOT commit local Gemfile modifications that remove the sidekiq-ent and sidekiq-pro gems.

Running the app

A Makefile provides shortcuts for interacting with the docker images.

You can see all of the targets and an explanation of what they do with:

make help

To run vets-api and its redis and postgres dependencies run the following command from within the repo you cloned in the above steps.

make up

You should then be able to navigate to http://localhost:3000/v0/status in your browser and start interacting with the API. Changes to the source in your local directory will be reflected automatically via a docker volume mount, just as they would be when running rails directly.

The Makefile has shortcuts for many common development tasks. You can still run manual docker-compose commands, but the following tasks have been aliased to speed development:

Running tests

  • make spec - Run the entire test suite via the docker image (alias for rspec spec). Test coverage statistics are in coverage/index.html or in CodeClimate
  • make guard - Run the guard test server that reruns your tests after files are saved. Useful for TDD!

Running linters

  • make lint - Run the full suite of linters on the codebase.
  • make security - Run the suite of security scanners on the codebase.
  • make ci - Run all build steps performed in CI.

Running a rails interactive console

  • make console - Is an alias for rails console, which runs an IRB like REPL in which all of the API's classes and environmental variables have been loaded.

Running a bash shell

To emulate a local install's workflow where you can run rspec, rake, or rails commands directly within the vets-api docker instance you can use the make bash command.

$ make bash
Creating network "vetsapi_default" with the default driver
Creating vetsapi_postgres_1 ... done
Creating vetsapi_redis_1    ... done
# then run any command as you would locally e.g.
[email protected]:/src/vets-api# rspec spec/requests/user_request_spec.rb:26


Vets API is configured with Config. The default configuration is contained in settings.yml. To customize your setup, you can create a config/settings.local.yml file with configuration specific to your needs. For example, to configure Redis and PostgreSQL (PostGIS is required), place something like this in that file:

database_url: postgis://pg_host:9999/custom_db

  host: redis_host
  port: 9999

This is also where you will place any other customizations, such as API tokens or certificate paths.

Config settings that vary in value depending on the deployment environment will also need to be set appropriately for each environment in the relevant devops (Private Repo) configurations (dev-, staging-, and prod-settings.local.yml.j2).

Some examples of configuration that will need to be added to these files are:

  • API keys/tokens
  • 3rd party service hostnames, ports, and certificates/keys.
  • Betamocks settings

Optional application configuration

The following features require additional configuration, click for details.

To mock one or more of the above services see Betamocks

Vets API will still run in a limited capacity without configuring any of these features, and will run the unit tests successfully.


As a general technique, if you're running vets-api in Docker and run into a problem, doing a make rebuild is a good first step to fix configuration, gem, and other various code problems.

make up fails with a message about missing gems

Could not find %SOME_GEM_v0.0.1% in any of the sources
Run `bundle install` to install missing gems.

There is no need to run bundle install on your system to resolve this. A rebuild of the vets_api image will update the gems. The vets_api docker image installs gems when the image is built, rather than mounting them into a container when it is run. This means that any time gems are updated in the Gemfile or Gemfile.lock, it may be necessary to rebuild the vets_api image using the following command:

  • make rebuild - Rebuild the vets_api image.

Deployment instructions

Jenkins deploys vets-api upon each merge to master:

Each deploy is available here:

API request key formatting

When sending HTTP requests use the X-Key-Inflection request header to specify which case your client wants to use. Valid cases are camel, dash, and snake. For example if you set X-Key-Inflection: camel then you can use camelCase keys in your JSON request body and you will get back data with camelCase keys in the response body. If the header is not provided then the server will expect snake_case keys in the request body and output snake_case in the response.


The version of Ruby and gem dependencies (including Rails) used are defined in the included Gemfile. The currently used versions of gems are maintained with Bundler and stored in the Gemfile.lock.

Version Policy

The goal is to have vets-api use supported versions of gems and Ruby, which is often the latest. However the versions are generally updated as need or availability arise. If you need a newer version of a gem, please submit a pull-request marked as draft with just the gem updated and passing tests.