VA Rolling out Paperless Claims Processing System
January 25, 2013

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced a nationwide transition to paperless processing of disability claims at its regional benefits processing offices.

It said it is working to establish its new Veterans Benefits Management System – VBMS -- which it will rely on to help meet the department's goal of processing claims in 125 days or less, at 98 percent accuracy, by the end of 2015.

So far 18 VA regional offices have implemented the system and full deployment is expected in 2013 for the remaining offices.

Increased demand for benefits resulting from over a decade of war, expanded access to benefits related to the use of Agent Orange in Southeast Asia, and a simplified claims process for PTSD have caused the department to struggle to keep up with claims volume.

The new system allow claims workers to establish claims as "e-folders," receive, store and view submitted claim documents electronically, identify and track the evidence VA needs from beneficiaries and other outside sources, and to quickly direct claims electronically among regional offices to better match VA's workload with available workforce capacity.

GAO: VA Struggling to Shorten Processing Time for Disability Claims
An increase in the veteran population including those with traumatic brain injuries and expanded eligibility for benefits related to Agent Orange exposure as well as issues with the design and implementation of the Veterans Benefits Administration's compensation program have contributed to an increase in processing timeframes and growth in the disability compensation claims backlog, GAO has said.

VBA regional offices have been shifting resources away from appeals and toward claims in recent years, which has lengthened appeals timeframes. Prospects for improvement remain uncertain because timely processing remains a daunting challenge, according to GAO-13-89.

VBA's backlog reduction plan—its key planning document—does not articulate performance measures for each initiative, including their intended impact on the claims backlog, GAO said, adding that the extent to which VA is positioned to meet its goals remains uncertain.

It said the VA also has not yet reported on how these efforts have affected processing times, a condition that raises concern given the mixed results that have emerged to date.

VA concurred with recommendations to partner with military officials to reduce timeframes to gather records from National Guard and Reserve sources, partner with SSA to reduce timeframes to gather SSA medical records, and ensure the development of a robust plan for its initiatives that identifies performance goals that include the impact of individual initiatives on processing timeliness.