House Panel Reviews VA Claims Process
FRA staff attended a
hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) this week that
focused on the Veterans Benefit Administration’s (VBA)
transformation plan to implement the Veterans Benefits Management System
(VBMS), a program that will digitize the disability claims process, as
well as measure results of the new system to date. The Committee’s
Vice Chairman, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) noted that
VA has yet to completely implement a comprehensive transformation plan
to provide veterans with a paperless disability claims process.
Bilirakis added that “since 2009, Secretary Shinseki has promised
to break the back of the backlog. Instead, three years later, the
backlog has grown by half a million claims.” Rep. Bob Filner
the panel’s Ranking Member argued that the VBMS was not good
enough to eliminate the backlog and that the VA has been working on
transformation plans for decades with little progress.
The VA’s goal is to
provide a disability rating system that will adjudicate all claims
within125 days with 98 percent accuracy. On the day of the hearing,
there were 829,028 disability claims pending with more than 55 percent
pending for more than 125 days and the backlog keeps getting larger.
Witnesses acknowledged some significant progress with VBMS that has been
implemented for two years in the VA regional office in Providence, Rhode
Island, but there are also some significant problems with the new
system, and was suggested that a panel of Information Technology (IT)
experts should thouroughly review VBMS.
National Archives and
Records Administration (NARA) is partnering with VA to provide
assistance in digitizing records, however that contract with VA expires
next week. NARA officials also cited the need for an estimated 4,000 additional
employees to address the current backlog. The issue of allowing veterans
to have private physicians determine their disability rating was also