Veterans

April 3, 2012

VA on track to break claims backlog

by Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki says VA is on track toward meeting one of the top priorities he set on arrival at the department three years ago: breaking the back of the disability claims backlog.

VA spent the last two years creating an automated tool to make claims determinations faster and more accurate, he said.

“Our intent is to have no claim over 125 days,” Shinseki told American Forces Press Service. “And every claims decision that we put out the door [will be] at a 98-percent quality mark.”

Toward that end, VA has been testing the new Veterans Benefit Management System in Providence, R.I., and Salt Lake City. Shinseki told Congress last month he believes this technology is helping VA “approach the tipping point in ending the backlog in disability claims.”

He stopped by the Salt Lake City office last week to assess progress there as the department prepares to take the system nationwide beginning this fall. The rollout will begin at 16 regional offices in September, with all 56 VA regional offices to receive it by the end of fiscal 2013, Shinseki said.

This advance is expected to go a long way in helping VA reduce the time veterans must wait for disability claims decisions, the secretary said.

“We know we can do it manually,” Shinseki said. “But we plan to layer this automation tool on top of that, and have the people who did the manual work now armed with an automation tool. I think we will be able to improve our productivity in ways that we will be able to take that backlog down quickly.”

Shinseki noted the monumental challenge VA has been up against. During 2009, VA produced 900,000 claims decisions, but also received 1 million new claims. The next year, VA increased its claims decisions to 1 million, but received 1.2 million new claims.

“Last year, we produced another 1 million claims decisions and got 1.3 million claims in,” Shinseki said. “So the backlog isn’t static. The backlog is a bigger number than we would like, but it is not the same number as three years ago.”

Once the automated system is in place, Shinseki said, he believes the 125-day, 98-percent accuracy goals he set are achievable. “There is a lot on the line here,” he said. “And that is why this rollout in September is an important one.”

His confidence, he said, comes from the successes he’s seen automation bring to VA’s processing of Post-9/11 GI Bill claims.

Shinseki recalled arriving at VA in 2009 just as the new program was being launched and having to implement it on the fly, with no automation tools. Within about nine months, he said, VA was able to prepare the manual process of getting about 173,000 people into schools by the fall 2009 term.

“It was pretty rocky,” he acknowledged.

But today, with the process now automated, VA is able to process more than 600,000 Post-9/11 GI Bill claims faster, and with fewer mistakes, the secretary said. That experience demonstrated the importance of keeping manual processing going as automation is being rolled in, then gradually moving all the processes toward automation, he added.

“The lessons we got out of that were tremendously important,” he said. “It educated our efforts with the automation tool for the [disability] claims process, and we are doing the same things, step-by-step, that we learned how to do through with the [Post-9/11 GI Bill].”

The new system is just one initiative VA has taken to break the claims backlog.

Another effort focuses on fundamentally changing the relationship between veterans and VA, making VA an advocate in putting together a strong claims package. VA began giving veterans a checklist of what’s needed to file a claim, and also did its own digging to produce whatever documentation veterans couldn’t find. This effort reduces the time needed to put a claims package together.

Another pilot program focuses on making claims processing more efficient by simplifying the process and improving communication among the entities that process a claim to reduce procedural delays, the secretary said.

Shinseki said he wanted to focus on getting the bugs out of the claims process before increasing automation.

“We didn’t want to automate bad processes and just get lousy decisions faster,” he told a Paralyzed Veterans of America gathering. “So we broke the complex, convoluted claims process down into its component pieces to improve each part before putting them back together.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines November 26, 2014

News: When Hagel leaves, new SecDef faces big questions about the military’s futureĀ - President Obama’s new pick to run the Pentagon will face a dizzying set of challenges affecting the Defense Department’s mission, budget and culture. Who will be the next Secretary of Defense?- Following the Nov. 24 surprise announcement from the White House, the...
 
 

News Briefs November 26, 2014

Navy to decommission two more ships in Puget Sound The Navy recently decommissioned the guided missile frigate USS Ingraham at Everett, Wash. It will be towed to Bremerton and scrapped. The Daily Herald reports the Navy also plans to decommission another ship at the Everett homeport and also one stationed in Bremerton. Naval Station Everett...
 
 

NASA airborne campaigns tackle climate questions from Africa to Arctic

NASA photograph The DC-8 airborne laboratory is one of several NASA aircraft that will fly in support of five new investigations into how different aspects of the interconnected Earth system influence climate change. NASA photograph The DC-8 airborne laboratory is one of several NASA aircraft that will fly in support of five new investigations into...
 

 
Air Force photograph by Rick Goodfriend

16T Pitch Boom reactivated to support wind tunnel tests

Air Force photograph by Rick Goodfriend The Pitch Boom at the AEDC 16-foot transonic wind tunnel (16T) was recently reactivated. This model support system is used in conjunction with a roll mechanism to provide a combined pitch...
 
 

Northrop Grumman supports U.S. Air Force Minuteman missile test launch

Northrop Grumman recently supported the successful flight testing of the U.S. Air Force’s Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile weapon system. The operational flight test was conducted as part of the Air Force Global Strike Command’s Force Development Evaluation Program. This program demonstrates and supports assessment of the accuracy, availability and reliability of the...
 
 
army-detector

Scientists turn handheld JCAD into a dual-use chemical, explosives detector

Scientists at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., proved it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks by adding the ability to detect explosive materials to the Joint Chemical Age...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>