Just about every government department or agency has a backlog of work. Many just accept government backlogs as a way of life and do not try different approaches to address their operations. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a large backlog of cases but to its credit they are establishing big measurable goals to achieve the “right recipe for success”.

Goals established by the VA include:

– Zero backlogged cases by 2015
– 98% accuracy in processing claims

Some of the initiatives undertaken by the VA to achieve these goals are:

1) Undertaking a new approach for processing claims

2) Moving to a paperless claims process

3) Increasing training for employees

A New Approach For Processing Claims

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 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; 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.
The segmented-lanes approach helps increase speed and accuracy because the claims specialists become familiar with processing claims of similar complexity.

The VA estimates the core lane will contain 60 percent of claims, with 20 percent of claims going into each other lane. The system will improve the claims process by ensuring it addresses critical cases promptly, while also prioritizing the completion of simple claims. Case workers will work in one of the three categories and will increase in efficiency and accuracy as they become familiar with claims of similar complexity.

Through this new model the VA hopes to process an additional 150,000 to 200,000 claims annually. “This new model is a 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 we have the right recipe for success.”

Moving To A Paperless Process

The VA has teamed up with the National Archives and Records Administration by signing a deal to use the archives agency’s high-speed, high-quality scanners to digitize the huge quantity of paper records the VA currently uses to make benefits decisions.

Increasing Training For Employees

Increased training has improved the productivity and accuracy of employees. Employees who have completed a new training program process 150 percent more claims per day, with a 30 percent increase in accuracy, when compared to employee performance under the previous program. To date, more than 1,300 employees have taken the training, which is now in place for all newly appointed or reassigned employees who handle disability claims.

What do you think about the efforts being utilized by the VA to reduce their case backlog? Can the approach utilized by the VA be applied to governmental agencies and departments at the local level?