Management

VA paperless benefits rollout gains speed

graph showing veterans age

GAO found that the number of younger veterans receiving benefits is growing. (GAO graphic)

The Department of Veterans Affairs is in the continual process of rolling out the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), and the Hartford, Conn. office is leading the way. In September, the Connecticut office was the first to switch over to VBMS, and "the digital, paperless system now used in 18 locations around the nation, is to be fielded in all 56 offices by the end of" 2013 The Washington Post reported.

According to the VA, VBMS is a way for the agency to cut down the average processing time when a Veteran files a claim, on average from 240 days to 119. The $537 million system was implemented in part due to a backlog of paperwork "of claims filed by veterans seeking disability benefits has soared in recent years as troops have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and because of a policy change making it easier for Vietnam veterans to file Agent Orange-related claims," The Washington Post reported in a July 2012 story.

In order to go all-paperless, the VA will have to scan and extract data from the current paper claims, a daunting task that the VA apparently has no detailed plans for, according to services representatives. Other problems include older veterans continuing to file on paper and slow software systems.

In April 2012, FCW reported on a hearing in which veterans’ representatives said getting rid of the claims backlog should not be the only priority. Jeffrey Hall, assistant national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, said that reforms for the VA should dig deeper.

"While the elimination of the backlog will be a welcome milestone, we must remember that eliminating the backlog is not necessarily the same goal as reforming the claims processing system, nor does it guarantee that veterans are better served," Hall said. "The backlog is a symptom, not the root cause."

About the Author

Emily Cole is an editorial intern for FCW.

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Reader comments

Wed, Oct 30, 2013

I just don't understand how it is okay for any agency to take so long to finish a claim. Each time I call the 800 number I am told how many times I have called in the last year. That should tell them something like, maybe it's taking too long. I am outraged when the reps tell me to be patient. Patient! A year almost two and I am told to be patient. I have no patience left.

Tue, Oct 15, 2013 que ALABAMA

the va is like congress getting paid but not doing there job.I have been to the regional office in Montgomery,al all they are doing is sitting around talking and doing nothing,must be nice.

Thu, Sep 19, 2013 john augusta ga

i have not seen any improvement , you call you get the same lame answer about your claim is in the development phase, etc,etc,etc.when you are allowed to send at minimum a message to hte person who is working on your claim it would speed up the system more than checking e bebefits which is a waste because it is never updated on a regular real time base.

Sat, Jul 6, 2013 Ernest cleveland ohio

this new system has pushed my completion date back to Aug, 20, 2014 it will be over 4 almost 5 years. All they do is ask for evidence when they have all they need. Government can help another country, but not the ones who served. It is always tricks when it comes to the veterans. There is so much misinformation from the 800 number no one is on the same page. They all tell you something different. E -Benefits I have to google to find the meaning of things they do not give good explanations.

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 rick NM

Phone calls to the "800" are impossible. "E" benefits site only works 20% of the time. VRO reps are prejudice and so gun ho they are aggresive and do not listen. This new method is another wrench in the works that will become a hinderence.

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