The Department of Veterans Affairs is employing a national workload approach for processing claims for veterans disability benefits
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is employing a national workload approach for processing claims for veterans disability benefits, which in some cases may result in a veteran’s claim being processed outside of their home state.
In a blog post on VA’s VAntage Point blog, the Veterans Benefits Administration laid out its transition to the “National Work Queue,” an electronic workload management initiative designed to reduce the claims backlog and improve processing wait times.
“This flexibility allows VA to better manage its capabilities to best serve all veterans just as veterans served our nation – without regard to their state affiliations,” the blog post states.
Under the National Work Queue, the regional office in the state where the veteran resides will be the first filter for determining where a claim will be decided. The claim could stay at that office, or it could be processed at the next available regional office with the production capacity.
The VA announced August 2015 that it had reduced the disability claims backlog to 98,535, an 84 percent reduction from its peak of 611,000 claims in March 2013. Much of that success has been attributed to the electronic claims submission process. Nearly all (99.8 percent) of VA’s pending disability claims inventory is fully electronic.
“There’s some confusion and concern by veterans as to why their regional offices aren’t addressing these claims,” said Kenny Dison, associate executive director of veterans benefits for Paralyzed Veterans of America. “The claims process has been electronic for some time now, and while the VA has cleared the backlog with some success, the quality of claims has gone down, which means more claims move into appeal status.”
Another challenge, Dison said, is that the eBenefits system, which veterans use to view and track the status of their claim, does not update to accurately reflect the current stage of a claim. “While we as VSOs [veterans service organizations] have the ability to continually track claims because we have access to the VA system, for veterans, it is often inaccurate,” he said.
The new National Work Queue will not change the relationship with VSOs and VA employees, as VSO representatives will retain access to veterans’ claim information through the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) at each regional office, and online through the Stakeholder Enterprise Portal. Congressional staff also will have access to regional office staff to check on the status of a constituent’s claim, VA said.
Above all, Dison emphasized that the electronic submission process has resulted in more quality claims being submitted, which in the end can lead to speedier, more accurate decisions for veterans. Paralyzed Veterans of America has long put out the highest quality of claims, he said, but now the added bonus of electronic submission is there is almost no lag time for VSOs to learn the status of a claim.
“Prior to electronic submission, veterans could mail a claim on a napkin, and the VA would have to honor that,” Dison said. “Now, with the implementation of electronic claims submissions along with standardized forms, the claim is recognized in the system almost immediately, so there’s typically no question if the VA received the claim or not.”
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.