The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to make progress in fits and starts but still puts veterans at a tremendous disadvantage because of a lack of technological innovation and modernization of its claims process, according to lawmakers and a new study out this week.
Despite making progress in 2013 to shave the number of backlogged benefits claims, the VA seems to have stalled at around 400,000, according to “The Red Tape Report” by the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“In the State of the Union address, President (Barack) Obama re-affirmed the VA disability claims backlog as a national priority,” said Jacqueline Maffucci, IAVA’s research director and author of the report told NBC News. “… It is not just about bringing the backlog to zero, but keeping it there.”
Much of the problem lies in its troubled transition from a paper-and-pencil process to digital.
The IAVA report makes several recommendations, most notably on what it calls the “VA’s outdated disability system.” The report says, “Informed by research and first-hand accounts, the report details the VA’s outdated paper-based disability system that emphasizes the quantity of claims processed over the quality of the processed claim.”
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the VA spent $537 million over a four-year period to create and install its Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) to digitize its claims process. After those four years just three percent of claims had been digitized, CIR found.
“Folks inside VA call VBMS ‘VBMess,’” Paul Rieckhoff, an Army veteran who is now executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said to Politico. “The technology is not consistent, and the interoperability between agencies is nonexistent.”