Federal agency expects new IT system to process and track veterans' disability claims more quickly.
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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced an initiative to expedite compensation claims for veterans who have waited one year or longer for a decision. The initiative is part of a larger strategy set by VA secretary Eric Shinseki to have claims completed in 125 days with 98% accuracy in order to eliminate a backlog by the end of 2015.
VA plans to process 250,000 claims that are more than a year old within the next six months. The federal agency's raters will make provisional decisions on the oldest claims in the inventory, helping eligible veterans collect compensation benefits in a timely manner. Secretary Shinseki said the "aggressive plan" will address VA's backlog issues.
In a related effort, the agency has been rolling out a new paperless system to process and track disability claims. In 2010, VA launched the Veterans Relationship Management (VRM) initiative to help call center agents pull up veterans' data more quickly, and to give veterans timely access to information like claims status. Among other services, VA provides compensation to veterans for disabilities resulting from diseases or injuries sustained while on active duty.
VA has seen a 200% increase over the last 10 years in original claims containing eight or more medical issues. But its more than 50 regional offices were still using legacy systems to process claims, causing delays.
"Moving to a more centralized call center architecture became VA's goal. But we had no software," said VA's director of VRM Maureen Ellenberger, who initially was brought on as a contractor to help the agency deploy CRM technology. "At the time, we were looking for an enterprise platform that we weren't only going to use for call centers. We also wanted to use it for case management to see veteran interaction across the VA."
VA chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM to integrate access to its 13 different databases, which previously had to be individually queried. The rollout began in December 2011 to a limited number of managers at VA call centers. The agency has eight Veterans Benefits Administration National Call Centers and one Pension Call Center. After integrating backend data, adding performance support and training existing employees at call centers, VA fully deployed the software in December 2012.
The deployment resulted in a standardized way of viewing veterans' information on a single screen and consistent, accurate data. "We have seen an increase in customer satisfaction and an improvement in quality," said Ellenberger. Last week, VA received the Microsoft Dynamics Customer Excellence award for its effective use of CRM technology to transform the organization.
VA is also working with the Department of Defense to accelerate downloads of electronic health records. VA has fully deployed the Federal Case Management Tool (FCMT), which is hosted in the same environment as Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The tool allows VA-employed case managers to track information about a veteran in the transition process from the DOD. "We have five different projects underway that use CRM and case management," Ellenberger said. "Going forward, we'll have a standard build-out that we can use across the enterprise because we're already equipped with the right tools."
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