New VA Processing Model to Ensure that Those Veterans Most in Need Receive Priority Attention

 Managing Director of Disability Group, the nation’s premier disability advocacy group, noted today that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will deploy a new model for processing compensation benefits claims at 16 VA regional offices  designed to ensure that those Veterans most in need receive priority attention.

“This new model is estimated to yield an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 additional compensation claim decisions annually,” said Ron Miller, Managing Director of Disability Group, Inc.  “We understand that those who are in pursuit of disability benefits are often experiencing the most difficult time of their lives.  And, we understand the physical, emotional, and financial toll that comes with being disabled and unable to work, so we fully endorse and support this reorganization,” said Miller.

The new organizational model involves special handling of claims from Veterans who are facing the most serious injuries or illnesses or experiencing financial hardships or homelessness, and therefore need immediate attention. The VA has reported that 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.

In addition, with Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) Veterans now have more control over the disability claims process.   Veterans have the option of visiting a private health care provider instead of a VA facility to complete their disability evaluation form. Veterans can have their providers fill out any of the more than 70 DBQs that are appropriate for their conditions and submit them to us.

DBQs are valuable for claims processing because they provide medical information that is directly relevant to determining a disability rating.  When submitted with a fully developed claim, DBQs ensure the VA’s ratings specialists have precisely the information they need to start processing the claim.

The VA reported that sixteen regional offices have received the new organizational and process model, including Huntington, W.Va.; Hartford, Conn.; Portland, Ore.; Houston, Texas; Cleveland, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; Phoenix, Ariz.; New Orleans, La.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Atlanta, Ga.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Wichita, Kan.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Newark, New Jersey and Fort Harrison, Mont. These offices will also receive new technology systems and software upgrades over the next 3 months. All 56 VA regional offices will have fully implemented all of the people, process, and technology initiatives by the end of 2013.