Ask SO: How will Veterans Benefits Administration transformation affect me?

Question: How will Veterans Benefits Administration transformation affect me?

Answer: The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is undergoing the most extensive transformation in recent history in response to the ongoing military drawdown, an increase in National Guard and reserve claims, an increase in the number of contentions per claimant on applications for compensation, and an expected increase in annual claims to more than 1 million new claims per year for the next three years.

In terms of how things work now, correspondence is received in the VA regional office through the mailroom. It is first routed to triage to discern what type of claim it is and where it should go, and then it is routed to the proper section. The claim is assigned to a development team based on the terminal digit of the file number. A veterans claims representative then "develops" the claim in preparation for a rater to apply law in making an adjudicative decision. This development may include scheduling exams, requesting federal records and soliciting pertinent information from the claimant.

Once development is complete, the claims file is forwarded for rating. Once rated, it is sent to authorizations. The overview of this system seems to provide a picture of a very efficient assembly line type operation. However, all of these respective tasks are partitioned and take place in different physical locations, thereby creating a lack of processing continuity. But this will change with the Intake Processing Center (IPC).

The IPC will facilitate much quicker movement of incoming correspondence to the proper team. Cross-functional teams will provide a case-management approach for claims, which will enable establishment, development, processing, rating and authorization by one self-contained entity rather than by several different sections separated by geographical space.

The other facet of the transformation is the implementation of three segmented lanes: special operations, express and core. This model will increase processing speeds by consolidating claims by type.

The special operations lane will handle claims requiring specialized expertise, such as traumatic brain injury or military sexual trauma. These claims should make up about 10 percent of the overall workload. The express lane will handle claims with only a few claimed contentions, or fully developed claims, which include all evidence to be considered at the time of filing. These claims are anticipated to encompass 30 percent of the workload. The remaining multi-issue claims, such as diabetes mellitus and individual unemployability, will represent about 60 percent of the workload and will be managed in the core lanes.

The impact of the claimant, as proposed by VBA, is a 15 to 20 percent increase in productivity and a 4 percent increase in quality. The plan for the transformation of claims processing is coupled with a drive to increase the use of fully developed claims, utilization of internal quality-review teams and electronic processing software to save time in rating.

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