Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

Veterans Corner

January 21, 2013

Veterans’ Corner

By Jim Vines

The Department of Veterans affairs announced Jan. 14 the nationwide transition to paperless processing of veterans disability claims at its regional benefits processing offices is underway. As of December 2012, 18 VA regional offices have implemented the new system and are beginning to process newly received compensation claims in an entirely digital format. The VA is on track for full deployment of the system to the remaining 38 regional offices in 2013.

This marks a major milestone in the VA's transformation of the processes and systems used to deliver benefits to veterans, their families, and survivors, even while the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has completed a record breaking one million claims per year the last three fiscal years. Critical to the VA's transformation is ending the reliance on the outmoded paper-intensive processes which prevent timely and accurate claims processing. The VA is deploying technology solutions which improve access, drive automation, reduce variance and enable faster and more efficient operations to eliminate the backlog.

The current backlog of claims is the result of increased demand over a decade of war with many veterans returning with severe, complex injuries, and increased outreach to veterans informing them of their benefits. Secretary Eric Shinseki also made important decisions to recognize medical conditions related to Agent Orange service in Southeast Asia, and to simplify the process to file claims for combat PTSD. These decisions have expanded access to benefits for hundreds of thousands of veterans and has brought significantly more claims into the system.

Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) was pilot tested at select regional offices between 2010 and 2012, with improvements and greater functionality added to system software releases throughout the resting period. In pilot programs the new system cut the time to process claims nearly in half. The most recent version of VBMS software allows the 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 the VA needs from beneficiaries and other outside sources,

• quickly direct claims electronically among regional offices to better match the VA's workload with available workforce capacity

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