Cuts to VA claims database backlog stall at 400,000

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense need an interoperable electronic health record system--not merely a joint integrated one--in order to reduce the significant backlog of veterans' pending disability claims, according to a new report from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The report, The Battle to End the VA Backlog, says that having an interoperable EHR between the two agencies is "long overdue" and the "single most important initiative" to resolve the logjam. Government efforts to cut the backlog, which stood at 611,000 claims last March and had been whittled down to 496,000 claims by August, have stalled at 400,000, according to USA Today.

"The VA relies heavily upon DoD medical and service records to establish that an injury or illness is the result of a veteran's service. ... Without evidence demonstrating that an injury is service-connected, the VA cannot grant disability compensation," the report's authors say. "The VA's duty to assist thus requires the VA to exhaust all efforts to determine whether an injury or illness is connected to a veteran's service, leaving the VA spending countless days tracking down military medical records.

For that reason, the authors say, the VA must have access to all DoD medical records "to ensure a seamless transition of care and expedited benefits."

The report also recommends that the VA and DoD improve accuracy, increase automation and better anticipate veterans' needs.

Funding legislation agreed to by the House and Senate in December mandated that the VA and DoD present a plan for building either an interoperable or single electronic health record to Congress by the end of last month.

To learn more:
- here's the report
- read the USA Today article