On Monday, July 14, 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has finalized its one millionth disability claim in fiscal year 2014. This marks the fourth year in a row that the VA has exceeded one million completed claims for Veterans by the end of the fiscal year.
The VBA has reduced the claims backlog by more than 55 % since March, 2013, when the claims backlog was at its peak at 611,000 backlogged claims. At the same time, the VBA has been improving the accuracy of rating decisions. The VA’s national “claim-level” accuracy rate is currently 91%, up from 83% in 2011.
The accuracy rate of claims processed is extremely important. Rating decisions often determine eligibility (and non-eligibility) for other VA benefits and services. Claims data gets tracked and managed in other categories on the VA’s Monday Morning Workload Report.
The VBA has taken the following actions to improve both the efficiency and the accuracy of non-rating claim decisions:
Hiring Temporary Employees: The VBA is hiring 200 temporary employees who will undergo specialized training to process the less complex non-rating claims and work actions.
National Call Center Initiative: Effective July 14, 2014, employees at the National Call Centers in St. Louis and Phoenix are also processing dependency claims. The initiative will soon be expanded to all VBA call centers.
Online Dependency Claims: The VBA developed a new rules-based processing system (RBPS) to automate dependency claims. Self-service features in RBPS have enabled more than 75,000 Veterans to add or change the status of their dependents online. At least 50% of the dependency claims filed using RBPS are automatically processed and paid in one to two days.
Dependency Claims Contract: The VA awarded a contract for assistance in entering data from paper-based dependency claims into VA’s electronic rules-based processing system. The contract calls for 40,000 dependency claims to be processed per month when operating at full capacity.
Burial Claims: Effective July 7, 2014, a new regulation allows automatic payment of the one-time burial allowance to a Veteran’s spouse, without requiring the surviving spouse to apply for the benefit. An estimated 62,000 surviving spouses will now receive timely burial benefits each year.
Up-front Income Verification for Pension: A data sharing initiative with the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service allows the VBA to verify the income of pension applicants before awarding benefits, and eliminates the annual income reporting requirement for pension beneficiaries.
Drill Pay Adjustments: The VBA is working to streamline and automate the drill pay offset process through an upfront agreement with National Guard and Reserve members. Veterans cannot legally receive VA benefits and drill pay concurrently.
Since 2011, the VBA has been profoundly restyling the way that it provides benefits to Veterans and military families. As part of this transformation, the VBA has been streamlining their processes in order to bring benefits and services more efficiently.
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Military Connection: How The VBA is Improving: By Debbie Gregory