KIM A. GRAVES
DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF BUSINESS PROCESS INTEGRATION
VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
HOUSE VETERANS' AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON DISABILITY ASSISTANCE AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS
January 29, 2008
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, it is a privilege to be here today to talk about the use of information technology to enhance claims processing within the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
VBA has made significant strides in the use of information technology to improve claims processing in all of our benefit programs. Our current focus is the development of a comprehensive strategy to integrate the various initiatives already underway, leveraging successes already accomplished. VBA is collaborating with the Office of Information and Technology ( OI&T) in developing this strategy to ensure our mission needs are met and that the appropriate enterprise architecture is employed.
At the core of our strategy is the implementation of a business model for Compensation and Pension processing that is less reliant on paper documents. The use of imaging technology and computable data to support claims processing in our Insurance, Education and Loan Guaranty programs has been successful for many years. Initial pilot efforts in our Compensation and Pension business line have demonstrated the feasibility of using this type of technology for these benefit programs as well.
Our comprehensive strategy, the Paperless Delivery of Veterans Benefits initiative, is envisioned to employ a variety of enhanced technologies to support end-to-end claims processing. In addition to imaging and computable data, we will also incorporate enhanced electronic workflow capabilities, enterprise content and correspondence management services, and integration with our modernized payment system, VETSNET. In addition, we are also exploring the utility of business rules engine software for both workflow management and to potentially support improved decision making by claims processing personnel. A recent Request for Information yielded a variety of products that may be useful in our end-state vision.
As part of our strategy for improving the claims processing business model, VBA recently contracted with IBM to conduct a study of the current process and suggest improvements. We expect their report shortly and will assess their findings as we move forward with documenting our strategy.
As noted previously, two pilot programs are currently underway and have demonstrated the utility of imaging technology in our Compensation and Pension business line. Both projects utilize our Virtual VA imaging platform and related applications. Virtual VA is a document and electronic claims-folder repository.
The first pilot supports our income-based pension program. It involves imaging documents received in conjunction with the annual income verification and reporting process. This imaging allows the three Pension Maintenance Centers (PMCs) to make the necessary claims adjustments without need for retrieval and review of the paper claims file.
The second pilot supports the compensation program at the centralized rating activity sites for our Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program. The separating servicemember's medical records and supporting claim information are imaged at the outset of the claims process. This allows rating veterans service representatives to make decisions based solely upon review of the imaged records without recourse to a paper claims file. Further refinements of the business process are now underway to identify gaps in the existing system capabilities which will enhance our understanding as we evaluate options for expanding use of this technology.
An additional pilot project is also under development. This project will examine issues such as user authentication and using on-line forms to provide the capability for the initial "electronic" filing of benefit claims. This is the first step in implementing on-line "self-service" to allow veterans to manage some of their interactions with VA electronically.
Integration with VETSNET is also a critical success factor in our overall strategy. We have made significant progress in the implementation of VETSNET over the past two years. Approximately 98 percent of all original compensation claims are being processed end-to-end in VETSNET, and we are now paying monthly compensation benefits to more than 850,000 veterans - or approximately one out of every three compensation recipients - using this modernized platform. With our next conversion of records from the legacy Benefits Delivery Network ( BDN), scheduled for April, VETSNET will be the primary payment system for Compensation and Pension benefits.
Integration and data exchange with the Department of Defense are also essential, as is our continued expansion of exchange of health care information with the Veterans Health Administration.
In 2001, the Compensation and Pension Records Interchange ( CAPRI) application was developed jointly by VHA and VBA. CAPRI provides VBA claims processing personnel access to information from the Veterans Health Information Technology and Architecture ( VistA) and that is used in the development and documentation of disability benefit claims. CAPRI also provides access to some Department of Defense medical records through integration with the Federal Health Information Exchange (FHIE) framework. As part of our vision for the future, we will eventually move this data directly into our paperless benefits delivery platform as part of the veteran's "e-file."
As we continue to move forward with the efforts described here, we are focused on developing an integrated project plan, ensuring the needs of our veterans and their families are documented and attainable. Demonstrable milestones and performance metrics will be incorporated so that we and our stakeholders are able to assess our progress in achieving our vision.
To assist in developing this plan, we are working closely with our OI&T partners to develop a Request for Proposals to engage the services of a Lead Systems Integration contractor. The integrator will provide support in documenting both the business and technical requirements for implementation of our strategy.
I assure you the Under Secretary for Benefits is committed to implementation of the Paperless Delivery of Veterans Benefits initiative. Together with our partners in the Office of Information and Technology, we believe this goal is not only attainable, but is imperative to ensure the best possible service to our nation's veterans. Thank you for the opportunity to address these important issues.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.