VA Expands Use of New Claims System
By Dave Autry
The Department of Veterans Affairs has begun to deploy its new operating model to improve benefits delivery to veterans, their families and their survivors. From now until Oct. 1, the new system will be put to use at 12 regional offices and at the remaining 40 regional offices by the end of 2013.
“DAV has been working in cooperation with the VA to improve and streamline the claims system, and what we’ve seen so far puts them on the road to getting it right the first time,” said National Service Director Garry J. Augustine.
Through a combination of technology, innovation and quality assurance measures, the VA has developed “transformation initiatives” that have been evaluated, tested and measured and are being rolled out nationwide. Meanwhile, the VA will continue to track and measure the effects the transformation plan has on reducing the backlog of disability claims and providing more timely and accurate decisions.
“This continuous tracking and measuring of effectiveness will doubtless result in some refinements along the way,” Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski said. “But it’s all part of the process, and DAV will remain actively engaged throughout.”
According to the VA, the major components of the transformation plan include:
- The Intake Processing Center, which adds a formalized triage process to associate claims documents and other mail with veterans’ files;
- Segmented Processing Lanes will allow claims that can be more easily rated to move quickly through the system. More complex claims will be processed by more experienced and skilled employees;
- Cross-Functional Teams will support a case-management approach to claims processing that minimizes rework and reduces processing time; and
- The Veterans Benefits Management System is a new electronic claims processing system that employs rules-based technologies to improve decision speed and quality.
The VA already has implemented Quality Review Teams to evaluate station and individual employee performance and conduct in-process reviews to eliminate errors at the earliest possible stage.
Simplified and Standardized Rating Notification Letters also give veterans one letter that provides notice of the VA’s decision, including a summary of the evidence considered and the reason for the decision.
The 12 regional offices to begin the deployment of the transformation initiatives are: Huntington, W.Va.; Hartford, Conn.; Portland, Ore.; Houston; Cleveland; Des Moines, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; Phoenix; New Orleans; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Atlanta; and Newark, N.J. This deployment follows four pilot programs in Indianapolis, Ind., Wichita, Kan.; Milwaukee; and Fort Harrison, Mont.