In a department-wide initiative to resolve disability claims more quickly and effectively, more U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be turning to electronic document management systems in 2013.
According to The Baltimore Sun, rising demands in veteran benefits have resulted in slower disability claim processing for the Baltimore office. Baltimore, which has the slowest turnaround rate of all Veterans Affairs offices, will be one of the next locations to implement the electronic Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) later this year. Megan Lutz, a VA spokesperson, spoke to the news source about the agency’s decision to digitize the process.
“We recognize that too many veterans are waiting too long to get the benefits they have earned and deserve,” she explained. “That’s unacceptable, and that’s why VA is building a strong foundation for a paperless, digital disability claims system – a lasting solution that will transform how we operate and eliminate the claims backlog.”
Not only did the paper claims system make processes less efficient, but an error rate of 26.2 percent, the highest in the country, compromised regulatory compliance for Baltimore’s VA office. The Baltimore Sun reported that an audit in 2009 revealed the office failed to meet 14 out of 15 operational requirements, and management admitted to having insufficient control over workflow. A 2011 audit demonstrated that Baltimore had a 7 percent compliance rate, tied with Anchorage, Alaska for the worst-performing.
Advantages already apparent
The VA office expects to greatly reduce errors with the digital system, which has already been implemented in other VA offices with a positive impact. The Washington Post reported that Hartford was the first office in the country to switch to the VBMS, which is slated to be used in all 56 offices by the end of this year. Salt Lake City and Providence offices tested the system, and found that the average processing time for a case was cut in half from 240 days to 119. Jared Taylor, a veterans service representative, told the news source that the electronic system has transformed the claims process, allowing him and other employees to make quicker decisions and develop cases much faster.
Once it is fully adopted, the paperless VBMS system will provide the U.S. VA department with a more efficient way of filing and processing documentation for veterans. Veterans will gain faster disability benefits, while offices will simultaneously improve audits as a result of reduced risk of errors.
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