OIG: Pentagon stuggles with initiative to speed up VA disability claims

The Department of Defense (DoD) is having trouble rolling out its new electronic scanning system to expedite Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims decisions, according to a new report by the VA's Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The technology, called the Health Artifact and Image Management Solution (HAIMS) system, is supposed to make certified military service treatment records "automatically" available to the VA.

However, OIG, in its audit released Aug. 28, found that the DoD only completed 29 percent of the Veterans' Benefits Administration (VBA) 7,278 requests for electronic service treatment records (STRs) from Jan. 1, 2014, through June 3, 2014. Of the 29 percent completed, only 18 percent were received by VBA within 45 days of veterans' separation from military service. OIG found that DoD was running into "challenges" in implementing the system.

The report also found that the VA contributed to the delays, mainly because of its focus on eliminating the backlog of pending claims. While the VA has reduced the backlog, once at 451,000 claims, a backlog of 264,000 still exists, according to Federal News Radio.  

OIG warned that the electronic system was not expected to help the VBA in the near term, because most of the claims involve veterans who separated from military service before the electronic system was instituted in January 2014. That means the process of requesting paper STRs was "still important."   

The technology is not the long hoped for interoperable EHR system between the two agencies. It is a repository with scanning capability that produces a digitized record from the Defense Department's EHR, which the VA retrieves. The two agencies abandoned plans to integrate their EHRs in February 2013 and have opted to modernize their systems separately.

To learn more:
- read the OIG report (.pdf)
- here's the Federal News Radio article

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