VA Secretary: Electronic system will help clear claims backlog by 2015

While efforts by Department of Veterans Affairs to dig out from a massive backlog of claims using its electronic Veterans Benefits Management System have been slow going thus far, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told CNN's "State of the Union" this week that the tool will help to end the backlog by 2015.

The backlog includes more than 875,000 pending claims, 70 percent of which are older than 125 days--the VA's goal processing time.

Veterans' advocates told Congress in December that they worry that the process of scanning all those old paper files into the new system will be a fiasco. Alan Bozeman, director of the Veterans Benefits Management System program office, testified at the time that "VA is leveraging technology to ensure that the specific information needed to process claims can be identified, extracted and quickly utilized by claims processors."

On CNN, Shinseki said the system has been implemented in 20 of the VA's regional offices, a number that will grow to 56 by the end of 2013.

Shinseki said the president has made it very clear that clearing the backlog is a priority; he pointed out that the VA's budget recently was increased by 40 percent, while the budgets of other federal agencies have been cut.

Among the reasons for the backlog, Shinseki said, were the increasing number of veterans applying for benefits, the paper-based system and the need to sync the records systems of the VA and U.S. Department of Defense.

The two agencies have come under heated criticism for their so-called "U-turn" on the joint EHR system, though they said they will rely on "existing systems" to combine their disparate records technology.

The VA, DoD and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services are among five agencies whose major IT projects require more rigorous oversight, according to a report published last fall by the Government Accountability Office.

Meanwhile, a pilot project that uses electronic health records in processing Social Security Administration disability claims found that wait time for processing could be reduced from months to days.

To learn more:
- find the CNN program transcript


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