VA aims to boost claims processing

The Department of Veterans Affairs' budget submission calls for increased spending on electronic claims processing and outlines new projects related to information security, computer-based training and automation of VA loan processing.

The budget also calls for $21.3 million for the VA's newly created Office of Information and Technology.

In a briefing today, Mark Catlett, the VA's assistant secretary for management, said the department is seeking $10 million to fund a program that he said will improve the VA's ability to quickly respond to benefits claims filed by veterans—a goal the department has been wrestling with for years.

"This has the potential to revolutionize the way we do business," Catlett said.

Catlett said the department already has set up a pilot version of the new system that uses advanced imaging technology to give claims processors easier access to essential documents. The department has installed the system in its Washington, D.C., office and hopes to begin deploying it elsewhere beginning in 2000.

The budget also specifies a "multi-year initiative" to develop four Training and Performance Support Systems for employees working in the "re-engineered" benefits processing environment.

Elsewhere, the budget calls for security reviews of key systems for functions such as financial management and accounts receivable. The budget also says the department will develop a plan to modernize its Loan Guaranty Financial System, which currently does not comply with governmentwide standards for financial management systems.

The budget includes proposed legislation calling for lenders to pay the VA a fee for each guaranteed loan. The fees would be used to develop the VA Loan Information System, which "would interact with the information systems used by the lenders that make VA guaranteed loans," according to the budget.

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