IG: VA faces challenges in moving to paperless claims processing
Problems with the Veterans Benefits Management System are hindering Veterans Affairs Department efforts to eliminate its backlog of disability claims and to increase the accuracy rate of claims processing to 98 percent by 2015, says a Feb. 4 VA inspector audit report (.pdf).
VBMS is designed to transition the Veterans Benefits Administration from a paper-based claims process to an automated, paperless process that integrates web-based technology. However, the IG found that VBMS is in the early stages of system development and that the VA has not fully tested VBMS.
Due to the incremental development approach VA chose, the system "had not been fully developed to the extent that its capability to process claims from initial application through review, rating, award, to benefits delivery could be sufficiently evaluated," states the audit.
By moving to a completely paperless claims process, VBA plans to minimize rating inconsistencies and errors, as well as the mishandling of veterans' claims information. Nevertheless, the IG reports that scanning and digitization of veterans' claims lacks a detailed plan and an analysis of requirements.
"We identified issues hindering VBA's efforts to convert hard-copy claims to electronic format for processing within VBMS, including disorganized electronic claims folders and improper management of hard-copy claims," the report states.
To remedy the situation, the IG recommends that the VA establish a plan with milestones for resolving system issues and develop a detailed approach to scanning and digitizing claims so that transformation efforts do not adversely affect claims processing and add to the existing backlog. The under decretary for benefits and the VA chief information officer concured with the IG's recommendations. However, the IG states that it "will close the recommendations when we receive sufficient evidence demonstrating VA progress in addressing the issues identified."
- read the IG report (.pdf)