Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it would be moving to a new electronic claims processing system. This should help alleviate some of the current backlog in veterans' disability compensation claims.
The VA currently processes more than a million claims each year. However, this has not been enough to keep up through current wars and an expansion in the eligibility for Agent Orange disability. There are currently 558,000 pending claims in backlog status (older than 125 days without a decision). That equates to approximately 65 percent of the pending claims.
Two years ago, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki promised to eliminate the backlog of claims by 2015. The electronic claims processing system is part of the solution. The VA is also developing better training for claims handlers and putting in place a new operating model.
How Will the New Operating Model Work?
Under the new model, uncomplicated claims with two or fewer health condition will go into an "express" lane. Claims that include all necessary supporting documents and evidence will also be processed through the "express" lane.
For claims that require special attention, there will be a "special operations" lane. These are cases where an illness or wound is very serious or a veteran is homeless or in severe financial distress.
A "core" lane will handle the majority of claims. These are claims that involve more than two medical conditions or require additional documentation.
In addition to the new operating model, several pilot locations using the electronic claims system have reduced the number of days it takes to decide claims. The new electronic system along with an updated operating model should speed the processing of claims.
Source: Weekly Herald, "Electronic filing system should speed VA disability claims," Tom Philpott, July 16, 2012.