New Mechanism Deployed For Processing Claims
VA has set up a new model for processing compensation benefits at 56 regional offices, part of a comprehensive transformation plan designed to bring about an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 additional compensation claims annually.
The joint VA-DoD Web portal eBenefits now integrates with the new internal Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) electronic claims processing system. This marks a major milestone in VA’s transformation from paper claims records to a totally digital operating environment.
The plan also ensures that veterans most in need receive priority attention.
“This new model is part of our comprehensive plan to eliminate the compensation claims backlog,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “Our redesigned model follows comprehensive planning and testing to ensure that we have the right recipe for success.”
The new organizational model involves special handling of claims from veterans who are facing the most serious injuries or illnesses, or who are experiencing financial hardships or homelessness, and therefore need immediate attention. Through a new “intake processing center,” claims are routed to one of three segmented lanes:
- Express—Claims that have only one or two medical conditions, or have all of the supporting documentation, medical evidence, and service records needed for an expeditious rating decision—referred to as “fully developed claims.”
- Special Operations—Claims requiring special handling because of the unique circumstances of the veterans. These include financial hardship, homelessness, serious wounds, injuries, or illnesses; and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with military sexual trauma and former Prisoner of War status.
- Core—Claims with more than two medical conditions, or those that will need additional evidence to make a compensation decision.
Once logged into eBenefits, veterans can also choose to have an accredited VSO representative assist with their claim submission by filing an electronic Power of Attorney form. Using this new system, the chosen VSO representative, with proper authorization, will be able to see the contents of a veteran’s claim, track its status, and add additional information when needed. A veteran and his/her representative can even work on a claim simultaneously while both are logged into the system, enabling VSOs to assist more veterans in their homes or even remotely.
Veterans Health Library Now Up and Running
The online Veterans Health Library (VHL) is a newly released resource that provides 24/7 access to comprehensive, veteran-focused health information to veterans, family members, caregivers, and VA clinicians.
A one-stop source for health information, VHL can help veterans and their families understand and self-manage their health problems, prepare for clinical encounters, and communicate effectively with their VA health care team.
All health information in VHL has been approved by VA experts. It includes topics specific to veterans such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, combat-related Traumatic Brain Injury, Agent Orange, cold weather injury, and military sexual trauma.
There are more than 1,500 health sheets, more than 150 videos, Go-to-Guides, and Flipbooks—many in English and Spanish—all available to veterans, their family members, and the public, no matter where the veteran receives care.
Partnership Points to Progress In Mental Health Services
VA, DoD, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced May 21 the progress made to date on the initiatives of an inter-agency agreement that ensures that veterans, service members, and their families receive the mental health services and support they need.
The recent advances resulted from President Obama’s August 31, 2012 Executive Order that called for an improvement in mental health services delivery to those serving, those who have served, and their loved ones.
“Using the combined resources and expertise from across the government, we are advancing services for those who sacrificed so much for our nation,” said DoD Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Progress made includes an increase in the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line by 50 percent; the establishment of 15 pilot projects in seven states where VA is working with community-based mental health providers to help veterans access mental health services in a timely way; the hiring of nearly 1,400 mental health providers and 248 new peer specialists; and the implementation of a national suicide prevention campaign to connect veterans and service members to mental health services.
Plans for the immediate future include the development of a National Research Action Plan to better understand and provide treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and co-occurring conditions.