As the The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to struggle with an excessive backlog of benefits claims, the agency has made electronic document management a top priority. With the new system, offices have minimized administrative tasks, which will allow the VA to meet objectives for eliminating pending requests.
The Washington Post reported that the White House recently proposed a 13.6 percent increase in funding for the handling of veteran benefits. The source revealed that the total number of claims files by veterans seeking compensation amounted to 885,000 this month, 70 percent of which had been pending for over four months. As a result, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough stressed that the president is focusing on addressing these claims. Because veterans can wait a year or more for decisions, particularly at overwhelmed regional offices, a more efficient system for data management is required.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki noted that changing claims regulations and the number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in increased amounts of documentation, which can result in administrative burdens too great for many offices to handle, the source reported. Shinseki's proposed solution includes a paperless claim system to support the VA's pledge to completely eliminate its backlog by 2015. The 2014 White House budget request included a call for $155 million to integrate the digital system in addition to $136 million for converting existing paper records to an electronic format. As part of this commitment, the VA promised to have all claims processed within 125 days and at a 98 percent accuracy rate. The electronic system is expected to aid in all of these efforts by reducing room for error and easing document retrieval.
The Dayton Daily News reported that just one of the advantages of this paperless system is that as a result of new efficiencies and cost savings, 23,000 Ohio veterans are receiving millions of dollars in grants to cover the cost of higher education. According to the source, by handling the Post-9/11 GI Bill with electronic processing, the VA has been able to reduce the amount of time it takes to enroll students and submit payments for tuition and fees from 24 days to an average of six days.
Cynthia Davis, assistant to the registrar at Cedarville University, told the Dayton Daily News that payments from the VA used to take up to two months, and now they're coming as fast as nine days.
Digitization has played a major role in allowing the VA to better organize and file paperwork, which has accelerated payment processes, improving veteran care through financial support.
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