Veterans groups question VA's ability to clear claims backlog

A paperless Department of Veterans Affairs will still have to scan old paper documents into its electronic system--but the VA hasn't specified how it will do that, veterans' advocates told Congress this week.

With a backlog of more than 900,000 claims among the documents that must be scanned, the American Legion worries that logjams would "devastate" the claims process for veterans, said Richard Dumancas, the American Legion's deputy director for claims, in testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

"What is deeply troubling is that the scanning is so obviously a key component and there has been little to no public indication from VA about the road forward," Dumancas said.

"While much focus is placed on scanning, a scanned document is not necessarily optimal for claims processing," said Alan Bozeman, director of the Veterans Benefits Management System program office, according to a transcript of his testimony. "VA is leveraging technology to ensure that the specific information needed to process claims can be identified, extracted and quickly utilized by claims processors."

In June, a senior executive at the National Archives and Records Administration told a House committee the VA would need 4,000 more works to scan billions of pages of paper benefit claims.

The VA says the paperless system is the key to clearing its claims backlog. But as of June, the VA had installed its paperless Veterans Benefits Management System in only four offices, despite spending close to $500 million.

The VA's goal is to process disability claims with 98 percent accuracy within 125 days by 2015--a goal it fails to meet today on two-thirds of its claims.

To learn more:
- see the full transcript of Richard Dumancas' testimony
- read the full transcript of Alan Bozeman's testimony

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