VA seeks vendor to automate Agent Orange claims processing

'Fast track' solution to be in place in seven months

The Veterans Affairs Department has set an aggressive schedule to hire an information technology contractor that can quickly automate portions of the claims processing system for thousands of new Agent Orange-related claims to be filed in the coming months.

The proposed contract would be awarded in April, with implementation of the automation solution to be completed in 150 days thereafter, according to a March 9 news release.

Announcing the proposed “fast-track” process, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the goal is to speed processing of an anticipated 200,000 new presumptive benefits claims related to Agent Orange and several other medical conditions. Those conditions were granted “presumption of service connection” status last year so veterans no longer have to prove an association between those illnesses and their service. As a result, a flood of new benefits claims is expected.

“With the latest, fastest and most reliable technology, VA hopes to migrate the manual processing of these claims to an automated process that meets the needs of today’s veterans in a more timely manner,” Shinseki said.

Also on March 9, the VA published a sources sought notice for the contract. Vendors are encouraged to respond to the Agent Orange Presumptive Case Development Support Services Acquisition notice by March 23.

The contractor is being asked to design and develop an automated system for processing the Agent Orange presumptive claims, which will include developing machine-readable claim forms that can be automatically downloaded and electronically submitted.

The VA anticipates that the new claims form will be shorter and more streamlined than the current forms.

The department anticipates awarding a firm, fixed-price contract for two years, but is considering other pricing models as well that include a lower fixed cost and incentive payments. Also, the VA said it will consider conventional "system delivery and integration" models as well as "software as a service" or similarly structured leasing proposals.

The automation system is expected to include commercial-off-the-shelf products as much as possible, and should be prepared to handle 90,000 applications by early 2011, including an early surge of 30,000 in the first four months after regulations are published.

The contractor is expected to propose solutions to VA in 90 days. Implementation of the solution is expected in 150 days.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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