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Bill Aimed at Clearing VA Backlog

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By Debbie Gregory.

A bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Tim Walz aimed at tackling the Department of Veterans Affairs benefit-claims backlog that was reintroduced nearly a year ago has passed the House of Representatives.

The Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2015 is a bipartisan, bicameral bill that allows local doctors to conduct disability medical examinations for veterans seeking benefits from the VA for the first time. Currently, veterans must visit a VA facility for the examination.

In a press release from March 4, 2015, Franken said, “We know that our veterans’ battles don’t always end when they return home. Too many return with mental and physical disabilities incurred while protecting our freedoms. All they expect in return for their service is for our nation to keep its promises and get them the VA benefits they’ve earned. Our legislation would help the VA speed up the claims process that is making far too many veterans wait far too long to get help they need.”

In the same release, Rep. Walz, “After these brave men and women put their life on the line for us, the least we can do is ensure they are getting the benefits they have earned in a timely manner. I recognize this problem was not created, nor will it be solved, overnight, but we can and must do better. Our bipartisan legislation will enhance the VA’s current efforts to break the backlog by helping them become more efficient, and will help veterans get the benefits—and the care—they deserve quicker.”

Allowing veterans to see a local doctor for their initial exam will not only conserve VA resources, but will also cut back on long wait times at VA hospitals. This, in turn, will allow for quicker diagnoses of disabilities.

In order to qualify, a veteran must be waiting 125 days or more for the VA to process their claim.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Nearly One Third of Vets in VA Backlog Already Dead: Military Connection

Nearly One Third of Vets in VA Backlog Already Dead: Military Connection

By Debbie Gregory.

With close to 900,000 military veterans waiting to access health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the department’s inspector general said that a major overhaul of the record-keeping system processing the applications was needed.

Sadly, approximately 28% of those veterans are thought to be deceased, but the VA has said it has no way to purge the list of dead applicants.

Linda Halliday, the VA’s acting inspector general, told the AP that the agency’s Health Eligibility Center “has not effectively managed its business processes to ensure the consistent creation and maintenance of essential data.”

According to a scathing report by the inspector general, VA workers incorrectly marked thousands of unprocessed health-care applications as completed. They may have deleted 10,000 or more electronic “transactions” over the past five years.

Whistleblowers have been warning that more than 200,000 veterans with pending applications for VA health care were likely deceased. The inspector general’s report substantiated those claims.

Last year, the VA publicly acknowledged that the enrollment system management and data integrity and quality “are in need of significant improvement. VA realizes the issues surrounding the enrollment process are confusing to Veterans and our stakeholders.”

The VA has contacted 302,045 veterans by mail, asking them to submit required documents to establish eligibility. To date, the VA has received 36,749 responses and enrolled 34,517 veterans, with outreach efforts continuing.

“As we continue our work to contact veterans, our focus remains on improving the enrollment system to better serve veterans,” said VA spokeswoman Walinda West “We will work diligently to address the issues their report raised to continue to improve the enrollment system to better serve Veterans.”

Meeting their healthcare needs provides us the opportunity to express our pride and appreciation to and for the many who have served and sacrificed to make our country free. It’s the very least we can do.

Military Connection: VA Makes Huge Dent in Claims Backlog

VA backlog

By Debbie Gregory.

A federal initiative to have the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provide timely decisions on disability payments to Veterans has passed another milestone on its way to eliminating the backlog of benefits claims.

The initiative has called for a major effort in applying new technology to transform the benefits claims process at the VA, and the transformation is achieving its goal. The inventory of backlogged claims has been reduced from a high of 611,000 claims in March, 2013, to less than 200,000 at the beginning of April. 2015. At the same time, the quality of the decision making has improved.

The VA’s Under-Secretary for Benefits, Allison Hickey, credits several factors for the massive dent made in eliminating the backlog. Hickey acknowledges the long hours put in by VA claims processors across the nation, most of whom have worked nights and weekends in their effort to eliminate the backlog by 67%.

“Make no mistake, we’re not slowing down short of the finish line,” Hickey said. “Our goal is to eliminate the claims backlog by the end of 2015 – meaning all Veterans will receive timely and accurate decisions on their disability claims.”

The under-secretary said that improvements in the Veterans Benefits Administration’s training and quality assurance programs helped VA employees to expedite through the existing claims.  They have also been able to keep up with new claims and maintaining acceptable levels of accuracy for their decisions. Hickey also credited the procedural efficiencies brought on by moving to an online paperless system.

Not long ago, claims processors trudged through an estimated five thousand tons of paper each year. In just the last few years, the VA converted claims processing to a digital format, where Veterans, as well as their dependents and beneficiaries, can submit claims for VA benefits and services online, accurately and efficiently.

Under the old system, Veterans had the potential to mail or fax in an incomplete or incorrect form. These incorrect or incomplete forms would then have to be mailed or faxed back to the Veteran to be corrected, and then mailed or faxed back to the VA once again. This was all very time consuming. But the online system will not allow Veterans to submit their claims forms without all of the necessary information, making it more efficient. It even allows applicants to upload their supporting documentation along with their electronic forms.

With the same amount of effort moving forward, the VA will hopefully get the backlog down to zero.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir Force,MarinesCoast GuardGuard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board,information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA Makes Huge Dent in Claims Backlog: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Newest Push to End VA Backlog: By Debbie Gregory

sep 16In an effort to improve care for all Veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has set a goal to eliminate the appointment backlog by the end of 2015. In the latest efforts to accomplish this goal, VA secretary Robert McDonald announced that the department plans to increase the range of pay for its health care professionals.

Secretary McDonald told the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs Convention that more facilities, more employees and better pay for providers are the keys to solving the appointment wait-time problems that have plagued the VA for years.

The VA is hoping that a more competitive pay scale could sway top-of-their-field doctors to work for the VA instead of private hospitals around the country. Hiring the best would mean better and more efficient care for our nation’s Veterans.

The VA has also been reaching out to Veterans who are already on the waiting list, and attempting to set up appointments for them within the VA healthcare system or private healthcare facilities. As of the beginning of this month, the Veterans Health Administration has reached out to more than 240,000 Veterans in order to get them appointments, reducing the electronic waiting lists by 57%.

While the VA is making efforts to improve the situation, expansions take time, and the Veteran population is growing. The down-sizing of the entire U.S. Military is rapidly separating approximately 250,000 VA healthcare-eligible Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan each year.

Only time will tell if all of these new initiatives and expansion efforts will turn the VA around completely. But at least for now, the VA has halted on its course to total ruin and is coming about onto a new heading. With any luck, it will be full-speed ahead for eliminating the appointment backlog in 2015.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Newest Push to End VA Backlog: By Debbie Gregory