VA Testing System to Move Claims Faster

One of Secretary Eric Shinseki's highest priorities has been eliminating a large backlog of disability claims.

With April being marked as Paralyzed Veterans of America Awareness Month, an American Forces Press Service report about a new online system for tracking disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs is sure to encourage PVA President Bill Lawson and members of the group. Donna Miles reports Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki believes a new automation tool will allow VA to pare down its large backlog of disability claims. The tool has been in development for two years, Miles reported April 2.

Shinseki told her the goals are to have no claims older than 125 days and every claims decision at a 98 percent quality mark. VA has tested the new Veterans Benefit Management System in Providence, R.I., and Salt Lake City, and Shinseki visited the Salt Lake City location last week to see for himself. "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," according to her report.

PVA's Lawson visited Capitol Hill last month to lobby members for increased funding. This month is the 66 anniversary of the founding of Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Lawson is traveling across the country to raise awareness and encourage the public to help veterans with disabilities.

Shinseki told Miles the productivity gains should reduce the backlog quickly. VA produced 900,000 claims decisions but received 1 million new claims in 2009; it decided 1 million claims the following year but received 1.2 million new ones, she reported.

"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. There is a lot on the line here, and that is why this rollout in September is an important one."

Miles' report says VA now gives veterans a checklist to help them compile materials for filing a claim. The department recently released 68 new disability benefits questionnaires to speed the processing of veterans' disability compensation and pension claims.

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