By GCN Staff

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VA claims office

VA targets paperless claims processing in 2013

The Veterans Affairs Department is moving aggressively toward full deployment of paperless processing of veterans’ disability claims at all regional benefits processing offices this year.

As of December 2012, 18 of the VA’s 56 regional offices were on the new system and had begun to process compensation claims in digital format. The remaining 38 offices are expected to be online this year, the VA said in a release.   

The new electronic claims processing system is called the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), a “solution that will transform how VA eliminates the backlog in 2015,” the announcement said.

Prompt processing of veterans’ claims has been a long-standing problem at the agency, which has had to deal with the after-effects of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to new claims from veterans of the Vietnam War era that followed the agency's decision to recognize medical conditions related to Agent Orange.

“We recognize that too many veterans are waiting too long to get the benefits they have earned, and that is unacceptable. This is a decades-old problem, and we are implementing a robust plan to address it,” said Allison A. Hickey, undersecretary for benefits.

VBMS was pilot-tested at select regional offices between 2010 and 2012, with improvements and greater functionality added to system software releases throughout the testing period. In pilot programs, the new system cut the time to process claims nearly in half.

VA claims processors can access online rules-based calculators and drop-down menus to enhance standardization and accuracy of decisions, for both electronic claims and those received in paper form and uploaded into VBMS.

Processors also will use VBMS to generate letters to veterans concerning their claim status and send requests to private physicians for medical records needed to evaluate claims.

The most recent version of VBMS software allows VA claims representatives to:

  • Establish veterans’ claims entirely in a digital environment as “e-folders.”
  • Receive, store and view veterans’ submitted claim documents electronically.
  • Identify and track the evidence VA needs from beneficiaries and other outside sources.
  • Quickly direct claims electronically among regional offices to better match VA’s workload with available workforce capacity.

“For our employees, VBMS will be a more user-friendly system that offers better access to decision-level information, rules-based calculators, and automated tools that help them process claims more consistently,” Hickey said.

When VBMS is combined with VA’s other transformation initiatives — including improved claims-rater training, cross-functional claims handling teams and prioritized lanes to speed processing based on type of claim — VA said it will be positioned to meet its goal of processing veterans’ claims in 125 days or less, at 98 percent accuracy, by the end of 2015.

Posted by David Hubler on Jan 15, 2013 at 9:39 AM


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