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Report to the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Committee on 
Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

July 2007: 

Veterans Affairs: 

Improved Planning Needed to Guide Development and Implementation of 
Education Benefits System: 

Veterans' Education Benefits System: 

GAO-07-1045: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-1045, a report to the Subcommitee on Economic 
Opportunity, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, House of Representatives 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers programs that 
provide educational resources to veterans, service members, reservists, 
and eligible family members of veterans. Under an initiative that the 
Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) began in 1999, called The 
Education Expert System (TEES), VA is moving its education benefits 
claims processing systems to new technology platforms and replacing the 
current systems with a new system that is to add more automated 
processes and eliminate most human intervention. GAO was requested to 
(1) report on the results of TEES development to date and identify the 
remaining work to complete the project, (2) identify VBA’s plans for 
completing and implementing TEES, and (3) assess the feasibility of 
developing and deploying TEES before the completion of VBA’s Finance 
and Accounting System. To accomplish these objectives, GAO analyzed 
relevant documentation, interviewed program and project officials, and 
observed processing systems at VA regional offices. 

What GAO Found: 

To date, as part of the TEES project, VBA has enhanced education 
benefits claims processing by developing certain capabilities that 
allow information to be captured in an electronic format. However, VBA 
has not taken action on various other initiatives that it identified as 
necessary to complete the project. These initiatives include (1) moving 
the functionality provided by its aging, stand-alone system used to 
process flight school, on-the-job training, and apprenticeship claims 
to a platform compliant with the department’s enterprise architecture; 
(2) moving the processing and payment functionality used for many of 
the education claims from its current antiquated system to new 
technology; and (3) creating a rules-based claims processing system 
that will process all education benefits and types of training. 

VBA does not have an integrated project management plan for the TEES 
initiative. According to agency officials, a project management plan 
originally developed in 2001 has not been updated since 2004. Because 
VBA does not have an integrated project management plan, it lacks 
critical elements needed to effectively guide the project to 
completion, such as a full description of its scope; identification of 
stakeholders’ responsibilities, documented risks, and performance 
metrics; and an overall approach for coordinating its various education 
claims improvement initiatives. Moreover, without an integrated project 
management plan, VBA risks initiating work that could be duplicative 
and overlapping. 

VBA’s Finance and Accounting System (FAS) is substantially complete and 
can currently pay new compensation claims; all functionality for 
compensation and pension payments is scheduled to be completed by 
August 2008. Thus, since much of the functionality for FAS has been 
developed, VBA could implement a rules-based system that integrates 
with FAS. However, while the current strategy calls for using FAS as 
the payment system for TEES, the existing functional requirements for 
an interface between the two systems, which were developed in 2003, 
have not been assessed and updated. Subject matter experts needed to 
define business requirements for interfacing the systems have not been 
assigned by a key stakeholder. As a result, it is uncertain when VBA 
will validate and update functional requirements for the FAS interface 
with TEES. 

What GAO Recommends: 

To ensure the successful implementation of TEES, GAO is recommending 
that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, among other actions, require 
the development of a comprehensive, integrated project plan to 
coordinate and manage the initiative. Commenting on a draft of this 
report, VA concurred with GAO’s recommendations and described actions 
planned to address them. 

[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1045]. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Valerie Melvin at (202) 
512-6304 or melvinv@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Contents: 

Letter: 

Conclusions: 

Recommendations: 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

Appendix I: Veterans Affairs: Improved Planning Needed to Guide 
Implementation of The Education Expert System (TEES): 

Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Veterans Affairs: 

Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

Abbreviations: 

FAS: Finance and Accounting System: 
OMB: Office of Management and Budget: 
TEES: The Education Expert System: 
VA: Department of Veterans Affairs: 
VBA: Veterans Benefits Administration: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

Washington, DC 20548: 

July 31, 2007: 

The Honorable Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: 
Chair: 
The Honorable John Boozman: 
Ranking Member: 
Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity: 
Committee on Veterans' Affairs: 
House of Representatives: 

Under an initiative called The Education Expert System (TEES), the 
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking steps intended to improve 
its education benefits delivery services by moving its education claims 
processing systems to new technology platforms and a new architecture. 
The effort, which the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) initiated 
in December 1999, is expected to enable faster and more accurate 
processing of education claims by replacing the existing education 
benefits systems within VBA's antiquated Benefits Delivery Network with 
a new rules-based system that will add more automated capabilities and 
eliminate most human intervention. When it began the initiative, VBA 
had planned to complete the new system by September 2005; however, in 
2004, the department refocused and rebaselined the system's development 
effort. VA currently estimates that the TEES initiative will be 
completed by 2011. 

At your request, we examined VA's actions on the TEES initiative. 
Specifically, our objectives were to: 

* report the results of VBA's development of TEES to date, and identify 
the remaining work needed to complete the system; 

* identify VBA's plans for completing and implementing TEES; and: 

* assess the feasibility of developing and deploying TEES application 
processing functions before the completion of VBA's Finance and 
Accounting System (FAS). 

To address these objectives, we obtained and analyzed documentation 
describing the planned and ongoing activities for TEES and FAS, 
including functional requirements documents, system development and 
code conversion contracts for the initiative, regional office 
processing metrics, and cost information. We supplemented our analysis 
with interviews of education program officials, project managers, and 
other officials responsible for developing the new system. In addition, 
we observed education claims processing and the systems currently used 
to support claims processing at two of VA's four regional offices-- 
Atlanta, Georgia and Muskogee, Oklahoma.[Footnote 1] We performed our 
work at VA's headquarters in Washington, D.C., and at the Atlanta and 
Muskogee Regional Offices from October 2006 through May 2007, in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

On May 25, 2007, we provided your offices with briefing slides 
(included as appendix I) that outlined the results of our study. 
Subsequently, we met with your staff on June 15, 2007, to further 
discuss our findings and recommendations. The purpose of this report is 
to provide the published briefing slides to you and to officially 
transmit our recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 

In summary, our study highlighted the following: 

* VBA has, to date, enhanced education benefits claims processing by 
developing certain functionalities to allow information to be captured 
in an electronic format. For example, it has developed automated 
systems that allow (1) education institutions to provide online 
enrollment certifications, (2) students to provide online and 
telephonic verification of enrollment, and (3) the public to inquire 
about approved academic programs, licensing and certification programs, 
and national exams. However, VBA has not taken action on various other 
initiatives that it identified as necessary to complete the new system 
and eliminate most human intervention. These initiatives include (1) 
moving the functionality provided by its aging, stand-alone system used 
to process flight school, on-the-job training, and apprenticeships 
claims to a platform compliant with the department's enterprise 
architecture; (2) moving the processing and payment functionality used 
for many of the education claims from its current antiquated system to 
new technology; and (3) creating a rules-based claims processing system 
that will process all education benefits and types of training. 

* VBA does not have an integrated project plan for the TEES initiative. 
According to agency officials, the plan that had been developed in 2001 
has not been updated since 2004, when program goals were modified. 
Agency officials told us the most current detailed information on 
planned TEES-related efforts is the fiscal year 2008 TEES Exhibit 300, 
submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which includes 
an initiative that could duplicate the Benefits Delivery Network code 
conversion effort. Because VBA does not have an integrated project 
management plan, it lacks: 

* critical elements needed to effectively guide the initiative to 
completion--such as a full description of the scope of the system 
development efforts, identified stakeholders' responsibilities, 
documented risks, and performance metrics; and: 

* an overall approach for coordinating its various education claims 
initiatives, such as its Benefits Delivery Network code conversion 
effort and the development of a rules-based system to improve education 
claims processing. 

* Since much of the functionality for FAS has been developed, VBA could 
implement a rules-based system that is integrated with FAS. However, 
while the current strategy calls for using FAS as the payment system 
for TEES, the existing functional requirements for an interface between 
these two systems, which were developed in 2003, have not yet been 
assessed and updated. Subject matter experts needed to define business 
requirements for interfacing the systems have not been assigned by a 
key stakeholder. Thus, it is uncertain when VBA will validate and 
update functional requirements for this interface. 

Conclusions: 

While VBA has completed several new initiatives to provide more 
automated assistance for processing education claims, the absence of an 
integrated project plan for TEES could place the department at risk of 
wasting millions of dollars on education claims processing initiatives 
that may overlap or be duplicative. Further, without updated 
requirements, VA's success in interfacing the new system with FAS, and 
ultimately processing education benefits payments more efficiently, 
could be jeopardized. 

Recommendations: 

To ensure the successful implementation of a system that provides 
consistent and effective delivery of education benefits payments, we 
are recommending that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, before 
approving any new funding for TEES and related systems, direct VA's 
Chief Information Officer to take the following three actions: 

* Develop a comprehensive, integrated TEES project plan that: 

1. defines critical elements, including but not limited to project 
scope, budget, schedule, risk, planning for data management, needed 
knowledge and skills, and stakeholder involvement; and: 

2. addresses redundancy between the requests for developing a TEES 
rules-based system, the department-level code conversion effort, and 
integration of the TEES development with FAS. 

* Once an integrated plan among related TEES initiatives has been 
completed and documented, revise the OMB Exhibit 300s for TEES and 
related efforts to ensure that duplication in efforts and budgets is 
eliminated and that funding is consistent with timelines. 

* Obtain stakeholders' commitment of resources to ensure that 
functional requirements are revalidated and updated as necessary to 
provide an interface between FAS and the future VBA education systems. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

We received written comments on a draft of this report from the Deputy 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs. (The department's comments are 
reproduced in appendix II.) In the comments, VA generally agreed with 
our findings and concurred with our recommendations. The department 
acknowledged that there is still much to be done to ensure that TEES is 
properly planned and developed. The comments described actions planned 
that respond to our recommendations, such as obtaining independent 
contractor support to conduct a TEES program assessment and validation 
of consolidated functional requirements in conjunction with defining 
and implementing a program-level governance organization. In addition, 
the department stated that its Education Project Management Service 
would work with the responsible project manager to ensure TEES 
timelines, requirements, risks, and budget requirements are accurately 
reflected in VA's FY09 OMB Exhibit 300 submission. Further, it stated 
that Education Project Management Service would coordinate with related 
program offices, such as Benefits Delivery Network Rehosting and the 
Finance and Accounting System, to ensure that intersections and 
dependencies have been identified and accounted for in all schedules, 
and eliminate the possibility of redundant efforts. If the planned 
actions are properly implemented and monitored by agency leadership, 
they should help to ensure that TEES will be successfully completed. 
The department also provided technical comments on the draft report, 
which we incorporated as appropriate. 

We are sending copies of this report to the Chairman and Ranking Member 
of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs. We are also sending copies to 
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and other appropriate congressional 
committees. We will make copies available to other interested parties 
upon request. Copies of this report will also be made available at no 
charge on GAO's Web site at [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov]. 

Should you or your staff have any questions about this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-6304 or melvinv@gao.gov. Contact points for our 
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on 
the last page of this report. GAO staff who made major contributions to 
this report are listed in appendix III. 

Signed by:

Valerie C. Melvin: 
Director, Human Capital and Management: 
Information Systems Issues: 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Veterans Affairs: Improved Planning Needed to Guide 
Implementation of The Education Expert System (TEES): 

Briefing to the Staff of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity House 
Committee on Veterans' Affairs:

May 25, 2007:

Table of Contents: 

Introduction: 
Objectives: 
Scope and Methodology: 
Results in Brief: 
Background: 
Development Results to Date and Remaining Work: 
Plans for Completing TEES: 
Feasibility of Deploying TEES before FAS Conclusions: 
Recommendations: 
Agency Comments and Our Evaluation:  

Introduction:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides valuable benefits and 
services to veterans and their families, including educational 
resources to compensate for opportunities missed because of military 
service. The timely provision of such services is central to the 
department’s mission. 

According to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA),1: 

the average number of days to complete original (first-time) education 
claims to payment increased from 33 to 40 from fiscal year 2005 to 2006 
(VBA’s 2006 goal was 27 days) and: 

the average number of days to complete supplemental education claims2 
increased from 19 to 20 from 2005 to 2006 (VBA’s 2006 goal was 13 days).

1: As reported in the department’s Fiscal Year 2005 and Fiscal Year 
2006 Performance and Accountability Reports. 

2: Supplemental claims are used for subsequent school enrollment after 
an original claim award or for changes in information such as address 
change. 

Under an initiative called The Education Expert System (TEES), VA is 
taking steps to improve its education services by moving its education 
claims processing systems to new technology platforms and a new 
architecture. 

This effort, begun in December 1999, is intended to provide faster and 
more accurate processing of education claims by replacing existing 
education benefit systems with a new system that will add more 
automated processes, eliminate most human intervention, and work 
effectively within the evolving VA corporate environment.3: 

VA currently estimates that the TEES development effort will cost $77.4 
million and be completed by 2011.4: 

3: TEES is a follow-on to an April 1998 prototype that successfully 
processes certain education claims automatically. 

4: This estimate is shown in VA's 2008 OMB Exhibit 300. 

Objectives: 

We were asked to: 

report the results of VBA's development of TEES to date, and identify 
the remaining work to complete the system, 

identify VBA’s plans for completing and implementing TEES, and: 

assess the feasibility of developing and deploying TEES application 
processing functions before the completion of VBA’s Finance and: 
Accounting System (FAS). 5: 

5: FAS is used to develop a payment record, generate various accounting 
reports, and support generation and audit of benefit payments. 

Scope and Methodology: 

To respond to this request, we: 

researched laws related to education benefits; 

obtained and analyzed documentation describing the planned and ongoing 
activities for TEES and FAS, including functional requirements 
documents, system development and code conversion contracts for the 
TEES initiative, regional office processing metrics, and cost 
information; 

interviewed education program officials at VBA headquarters and 
interviewed project managers and other officials responsible for TEES 
in VA’s Office of Information and Technology about the various actions 
taken to develop the system and costs incurred; and: 

observed education claims processing and the systems currently used to 
support claims processing at two of the four regional offices— Atlanta, 
Georgia, and Muskogee, Oklahoma—and discussed the systems with 
personnel in those offices. 6: 

Our work was performed primarily at VA headquarters in Washington, 
D.C., from October 2006 to May 2007 in accordance with generally 
accepted government auditing standards. 

6: Together these offices processed about 58 percent of total education 
claims received in fiscal year 2006. Muskogee was selected because VBA 
has identified Muskogee as proficient in education claims processing. 

Results in Brief: 

To date, VBA has enhanced education benefits claims processing by 
developing certain functionalities to allow documents to be captured in 
an electronic format. These enhancements include: 

an automated system that allows education institutions to provide 
online enrollment certification; 

an automated system to allow students to provide online verification of 
enrollment; 

an application to allow students to phone in their monthly 
verifications; 

and an automated system to enable public inquiry about approved 
academic programs, licensing and certification programs, and national 
examinations. 

However, VBA has not taken action on various other initiatives that it 
identified as necessary to move its education claims processing to new 
technology platforms and a new architecture and eliminate most human 
intervention. These initiatives include: 

moving the functionality provided by its aging, stand-alone system used 
to process flight school, on the job training, and apprenticeships 
claims to a platform compliant with the department’s enterprise 
architecture; 

moving the processing and payment functionality used for many of the 
education claims from its current antiquated system to new technology; 
and: 
 
creating a rules-based claims processing system: 7 that will process 
all education benefits and training types. 

7: This system will use logical rules to calculate eligibility dates 
and award amounts, minimizing the need for human intervention in 
processing most education claims. 

VBA does not have an integrated project management plan for the TEES 
initiative. According to agency officials, the plan had not been 
updated since 2004 when the program goals were modified. As a result, 
VBA lacks: 

critical elements needed to effectively guide TEES to completion— such 
as a full description of the scope of the initiative, identified 
stakeholders’ responsibilities, documented risks, and performance 
metrics; and: 

an overall approach for integrating its various system development and 
enhancement initiatives within the department to improve education 
claims processing. 

VBA has developed the functionality for FAS to pay new compensation 
claims, and all functionality for compensation and pension payments is 
scheduled to be completed in August 2008. 

While the current strategy calls for using FAS as the payment system 
for TEES, the rules-based processing system has not yet been developed 
and requirements for interfacing FAS with the system have not been 
assessed and updated. As a result, it is unclear when VBA will be 
positioned to revise the functional requirements for FAS to support 
TEES. 

To ensure the successful implementation of a system that provides 
consistent and effective delivery of education benefits payments, we 
are recommending that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs take several 
actions, including directing VA’s Chief Information Officer to develop 
a comprehensive, integrated project management plan to guide the 
development and implementation of TEES. 

Background: 

VBA Education Service: 

VBA’s Education Service administers the programs that provide 
educational resources to veterans, service members, reservists, and 
eligible family members of veterans. 

Four regional processing offices are responsible for processing 
education benefits claims:

Muskogee, Oklahoma: 
Buffalo, New York: 
Atlanta, Georgia:  
St. Louis, Missouri: 

VBA reported that in fiscal year 2006, these offices processed about 
1.4 million claims, a 2 percent increase over fiscal year 2005. 

Background:

Education Benefits Programs: 

Beneficiaries are enrolled in one of five education benefits programs: 

Chapter Number: Chapter 30: 38 USC §§ 3001,ff; 
Program Name: All-Volunteer Force Educational Assistance 
Program—provides education benefits to current and former active duty 
personnel; 
Percent of total enrollment [A]: 67; 

Chapter Number: Chapter 35: 38 USC §§ 3500,ff; 
Program Name: Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational 
Assistance—provides education benefits to survivors and dependents for 
military personnel killed or totally and permanently disabled; 
Percent of total enrollment [A]: 15; 

Chapter Number: Chapter 1606: 10 USC §§ 16131-16137; 
Program Name: Educational Assistance for Members of the Selected 
Reserve—provides education benefits for members of selected reserve; 
Percent of total enrollment [A]: 13; 

Chapter Number: Chapter 1607: 10 USC §§ 16161-16166; 
Program Name: Reserve Educational Assistance Program—provides education 
benefits to National Guard and other reservists called to duty; 
Percent of total enrollment [A]: 5; 

Chapter Number: Chapter 32 38 USC §§ 3201,ff; 
Program Name: Post-Vietnam Era Veterans’ Educational Assistance 
Program—enacted to promote the all-volunteer military program; 
Percent of total enrollment [A]: <1; 

[A] The percentages of total program enrollment are for fiscal year 
2006. They do not add up to 100 percent due to rounding. 

Background: 

Current Automated Processing: 

VBA currently relies on its aging Benefits Delivery Network to process 
and store education claims and calculate benefits. 

The Benefits Delivery Network comprises numerous separate and stove- 
piped systems that support education claims processing by, among other 
things, calculating benefits and payment authorizations for 38 U.S.C., 
chapters 30, 32, 35, and 10 U.S.C., chapters 1606 and 1607 
beneficiaries. 

Background: 

Current Manual Processing Functions: 

The current claims process for all original and most supplemental 
education claims also requires human intervention to manually complete 
key processing functions. For an original claim, VBA claims examiners 
must:

determine claimant eligibility, 

verify that claims payment is for an approved education program, 

verify that the claimant’s original signature has been received,  

verify that an enrollment certification has been received, and: 

approve education claims.

For a supplemental claim, a VBA claims examiner must: 

process school enrollment certifications for all Chapter 35, 1606, 
1607, and approximately 86 percent of Chapter 30 beneficiaries, and: 

manually add an amount to the rate calculated by the Benefits Delivery 
Network (for Chapter 30 beneficiaries who have the $600 supplement). 8: 

8: Under Chapter 30, claimants can elect to contribute up to an 
additional $600 to their required contribution level to increase the 
amount of their benefit.

Background: 

Planned TEES Development: 

VA defines TEES as its proposed approach to achieving the goal of 
processing to 90 percent of veteran education benefit applications, 
enrollment certifications, and notices of change in student status to 
final resolution without human intervention. 9: 

The approach would replace the existing education processing 
functionality of the Benefits Delivery Network with a new system that 
is expected to: 

introduce a rules-based processing capability that will automatically 
process a majority of all claims received electronically, 

process all benefit chapters and all training types, and: 

work within the VA/VBA corporate database and data warehouse. 

In addition, the approach would include development of auxiliary 
systems to facilitate the automated processing of education claims. 
VBA’s stated goal is to receive all claims information electronically. 

VBA began its first TEES effort in December 1999 with a scheduled 
completion date of September 2005. This effort was focused on 
developing a rules-based system. 

However, VA rebaselined the project in May 2004, shifting its focus 
from developing a rules-based system to migrating existing education 
systems off the Benefits Delivery Network as soon as possible. 

Under the rebaselined initiative, the Benefits Delivery Network 
migration had a scheduled completion date of December 2007 and 
completion of the rules-based system was moved from 2005 to 2010. 

Objective: 

Development Results To Date and Remaining Work: 

Since initiating TEES development in December 1999, according to VBA, 
$12.3 million has been allocated and used to undertake certain 
initiatives to eliminate reliance on the Benefits Delivery Network and 
enable the receipt of education claims information electronically. 

To reduce reliance on the Benefits Delivery Network, VBA has developed 
functional requirements for its rules-based processing system. 
According to VA officials, these requirements now need to be updated 
before proceeding with developing the rules-based system. 

For the electronic receipt and processing of claims information, VBA 
has: 

developed and maintained the Web Automated Verification of Enrollment 
system (which allows students to submit enrollment verification online) 
and the VA Online Certification of Enrollment system (which allows 
educational institutions to submit enrollment certification online); 

developed the Web Enabled Approval Management System (which merged two 
record-keeping systems for approved academic programs and for licensing 
and certification programs) and added functionality to automate a 
database of approved national examinations; and: 

implemented four education forms (application for VA education 
benefits, request for change of program or place of training, 
application for survivors and dependents’ education assistance and 
request for change of survivors and dependents) in the Veterans Online 
Application system to enable electronic submission of claims. 

In addition, TEES funding was used to support: 

in-house personnel costs for system development and maintenance (for 
example, the Electronic Certification Automated Processing and Chapter 
1607 systems) and: 

enhancement and maintenance of existing systems supporting education 
claims processing. 

According to VBA, these initiatives have helped improve education 
claims processing by providing a capability to receive electronic 
claims data, thus reducing manual effort needed for verification and 
certification. However, they do not substantially contribute to meeting 
the TEES goal to move the functionality from the Benefits Delivery 
Network to VA’s new technology environment. 

VBA has not taken action on numerous other initiatives that it 
identified10 as necessary to eliminate its reliance on the Benefits 
Delivery Network and eliminate most human intervention. VBA officials 
stated that no funds had been allocated for TEES development from 2004 
until 2007 because VA leadership had directed funding to other 
initiatives. 

In February 2007, VBA presented a revised approach for completing TEES. 
The initiatives identified as part of the revised approach include the 
following: 

1.Enhancements/Replacements for Current Systems—According to VBA, 
enhancements and replacements need to be made to three existing systems 
before work begins on the rules-based application. The estimated start 
date for the enhancement/replacement activities is August 2007 with an 
implementation date of December 2008. 

Chapter 30 PC replacement—an initiative to replace a stand-alone 
workstation located at each regional processing office and used to 
process all claims that cannot be processed through the Benefits 
Delivery Network. VA officials stated that this system runs on outdated 
and unsupported hardware and software. 

Electronic Certification Automated Processing—a rules-based application 
that processes approximately 14 percent of Chapter 30 claims through to 
authorization with no human intervention. This effort is a redesign of 
the existing system to (1) centralize automated claims processing and 
(2) provide additional functionality.

Work-study system—an automated application that is used to process work 
study claims.

2. Functional Requirements Definition—VBA plans to gather and define 
business requirements for building a new rules-based automated 
eligibility and award processing system. The estimated start date is 
July 2007, and completion is set for September 2008. 

3. Rules-Based System—This element includes data conversion, design and 
build, test and certify, and implementation of the system for 
processing benefits under chapters 30, 35, 1606, and 1607. VA does not 
expect to begin development of this component until October 2008, with 
completion anticipated in September 2011. 

In the February 2007 revised approach, the Benefits Delivery Network 
migration initiative, which was the focus of the rebaselining in 2004, 
has been eliminated from the TEES initiative. 

Objective 2:

Plans for Completing TEES:

A project management plan is a necessary component for guiding the 
development of an effort of this size and importance. Information 
technology project management principles and industry best practices 
emphasize he importance of using a project management plan to define 
the technical and managerial processes needed to satisfy project 
requirements. The plan should, among other things, 

define the scope of the project; 

identify budget and resource requirements (i.e., personnel and 
facilities), 

identify schedules associated with key project tasks; 

document an assessment of risks; 

identify data management requirements; 

specify the authorities and responsibilities of all users and 
stakeholders; 

include a work breakdown structure for all tasks to be performed in 
developing, testing, and deploying the system; 

identify performance metrics; and: 

articulate a security policy. 

VA does not have a project management plan to coordinate and manage the 
TEES efforts. Although VBA had developed a project management plan for 
TEES in 2001, its officials stated that the plan was not updated after 
the 2004 effort to rebaseline TEES. According to agency officials, the 
most current detailed information on planned TEES-related efforts is 
the fiscal year 2008 TEES OMB Exhibit 300. 

However, the Exhibit 300 is not intended to be a project management 
plan. The Exhibit 300 is a reporting mechanism intended to enable an 
agency to demonstrate to its own management, as well as OMB, that it 
has employed the disciplines to develop a strong business case for the 
investment and meet other administrative priorities in defining cost, 
schedule,and performance goals proposed for the investment. 11: 

11: We have reported elsewhere on the purpose and use of the Exhibit 
300. See, GAO, Information Technology: Agencies Need to Improve the 
Accuracy and Reliability of Investment Information, GAO-06-250 
(Washington, D.C.: Jan. 12, 2006). 

Lacking an integrated project plan, VA does not have a defined approach 
to accomplish the tasks that it has identified to modernize its 
education systems, and it risks duplication of initiatives. 

To illustrate this lack of integration, in December 2006, VBA officials 
stated that they were proceeding with a contract to develop functional 
requirements for the Benefits Delivery Network migration initiative in 
spring 2007. However, in September 2006, VA’s Office of Information and 
Technology had initiated a separate, department-level code conversion 
initiative to end VBA’s reliance on the Benefits Delivery Network to 
process education claims. 

The code conversion effort would duplicate most of the Benefits 
Delivery Network migration effort to end reliance on the existing 
system that had previously been identified as the focus of the 
rebaselined effort. 

In addition, the need for most elements of the code conversion effort 
could be eliminated by the development of the TEES rules-based 
initiative scheduled for completion at exactly the same time— September 
2011. 

In response to our inquiries regarding this separate initiative, 

VA officials stated that they would not include the Benefits Delivery 
Network migration effort in the 2009 business case for the TEES 
initiative. VA officials also stated that they had not maintained 
current plans for TEES initiatives because there had been no funds 
available to continue development. 

At the conclusion of our review, VA officials acknowledged the 
importance of having an integrated plan to guide the development and 
completion of TEES. 

Objective 3:

Feasibility of Deploying TEES before FAS:

Moving to a rules-based system to increase automated processing would 
require an automated payment system to replace the Benefits Delivery 
Network payment function or an interface with the existing Benefits 
Delivery Network. 

The current strategy calls for using the Finance and Accounting System 
to replace the payment function in the Benefits Delivery Network and 
serve as the payment system for TEES. 

VBA’s Compensation and Pension business line is currently developing 
FAS, and substantial parts of the system have been completed (FAS is 
currently scheduled to replace the Benefits Delivery Network payment 
function for new compensation claims in August 2007 and all 
functionality for compensation and pension payments is scheduled to be 
completed in August 2008). In order for the education program to 
utilize FAS, an interface must be developed. 

However, according to VA officials, existing functional requirements 
for a TEES interface with FAS, which were developed in 2003, have not 
yet been updated. Subject matter experts needed to define business 
requirements for interfacing FAS with TEES have not been assigned by a 
key stakeholder. Thus, it is uncertain when VBA will validate and 
update functional requirements for the FAS interface with TEES. 31

Conclusions: 

Since TEES began in 1999, VBA has completed several new initiatives to 
provide more automated assistance for processing education claims. 
However, VBA has not taken action on other initiatives, and the TEES 
functionality that would move its education claims processing to new 
technology and a new architecture and eliminate most human 
intervention, is not scheduled to begin development until December 
2008. 

TEES lacks an integrated project plan to guide its efforts and ensure 
program completion in an efficient manner. In the absence of such a 
plan, the department-level Benefits Delivery Network code conversion 
effort has not been integrated with TEES. 

Until VA has an integrated project plan for TEES that is approved by 
stakeholders, the Department faces the risk of wasting millions of 
dollars on education claims processing initiatives that overlap or, in 
some cases, could be duplicative.

Since much of the functionality of FAS has been developed, VBA could 
implement a rules-based system that integrates with FAS. However, 
functional requirements for an interface between FAS and the future VBA 
education systems have not been assessed and as necessary revised, and 
there are no committed resources from stakeholders identified to 
support the revision of this interface. 

Recommendations: 

To ensure the successful implementation of a system that provides 
consistent and effective delivery of education benefits payments, we 
are recommending that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, before 
approving any new funding for TEES and related systems, direct VA’s 
Chief Information Officer to take the following three actions: (1) 
Develop a comprehensive, integrated TEES project plan that: 

defines critical elements, including but not limited to project scope, 
budget, schedule, risk, planning for data management, needed knowledge 
and skills, and stakeholder involvement; and: 

addresses redundancy between the requests for developing a TEES rules-
based system, the department-level code conversion effort, and 
integration of the TEES development with FAS. 

(2) Once an integrated plan among related TEES initiatives has been 
completed and documented, revise the OMB exhibit 300s for TEES and 
related efforts to ensure that duplication in efforts and budgets is 
eliminated and that funding is consistent with timelines. 

(3) Obtain stakeholders’ commitment of resources to ensure that 
functional requirements are revalidated and updated as necessary for an 
interface between FAS and the future VBA education systems. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

VA provided oral comments on a draft of this briefing. In the comments, 
the Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Policy and Program Management 
expressed concern that we had not adequately reflected the department's 
accomplishments for the TEES initiative, such as development of the 
prototype for electronic certification of Chapter 30 supplemental 
claims. We have now included additional information in the briefing on 
this prototype. In addition, the department provided technical 
comments, which we have incorporated as appropriate. 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Veterans Affairs: 

The Deputy Secretary Of Veterans Affairs: 
Washington: 

July 18, 2007: 

Ms. Valerie C. Melvin: 
Director: 
Human Capital and Management Information: 
and System Issues: 
U. S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street, NW: 
Washington, DC 20548:  

Dear Ms. Melvin: 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reviewed the Government 
Accountability Office's (GAO) draft report, VETERANS AFFAIRS: Improved 
Planning Needed to Guide Development and Implementation of Education 
Benefits System (GAO-07-1045) and generally agrees with your findings 
and concurs with your recommendations. 

VA acknowledges there is still much to be done to ensure The Education 
Expert System (TEES) is properly planned and developed. VA now has a 
more robust enterprise architecture and a new consolidated information 
technology organization that is turning its attention to TEES. 

The enclosure specifically addresses your recommendations and describes 
VA's plans for successfully implementing TEES. VA appreciates the 
opportunity to comment on your draft report. 

Sincerely yours,

Signed by:

Gordon H. Mansfield: 
Enclosure: 

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) comments to Government 
Accountability Office (GAO) draft report Veterans Affairs: Improved 
Planning Needed to Guide Development and Implementation of Education 
Benefits System (GAO-07-1045)  

To ensure the successful implementation of a system that provides 
consistent and effective delivery of education benefits payments, GAO 
recommends that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, before approving any 
new funding for TEES and related systems, direct VA's Chief Information 
Officer to take the following three actions: 

1. Develop a comprehensive, integrated TEES project plan that: 

* Defines critical elements, including but not limited to project 
scope, budget, schedule, risk, planning for data management, needed 
knowledge and skills, and stakeholder involvement; and: 

* Addresses redundancy between the requests for developing a TEES rules-
based system, the department-level code conversion effort, and 
integration of the TEES development with FAS. 

Concur – The VA Information Technology (IT) realignment has resulted in 
the development of an IT Governance Plan that will address how the 
Department will manage IT resources under a centralized organization 
and ensure the successful implementation of IT systems, including The 
Education Expert System (TEES). The VA Chief Information Officer (CIO) 
has taken steps to establish the necessary governance boards approved 
in the IT Governance Plan. The governance boards include the Business 
Needs and Investment (BNI) Board; Planning, Architecture, Technology, 
and Services (PATS) Board; and IT Leadership Board (ITLB). These 
boards, in conjunction with the Strategic Management Council (SMC), 
constitute the decision making structure needed to centrally manage IT 
resources. 

For TEES, it should be noted that a signed charter, project management 
plan, and requirements management plan exist. The 2001 charter contains 
signatures from Education Service, Veterans Benefits Administration 
(VBA) Under Secretary's Office, VBA Office of Resource Management 
(ORM), and VBA's Office of Information Management. The Veterans 
Benefits Information Technology Development Program Executive Office 
(VBIT) agrees that this project management documentation should be 
updated to present the "going forward" plan and resubmitted for key 
stakeholder concurrence. 

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) comments to Government 
Accountability Office (GAO) draft report VETERANS AFFAIRS: Improved 
Planning Needed to Guide Development and Implementation of Education 
Benefits System (GAO-07-1045): 

(Continued):  

Action Plan: The Education Project Management Service (EPMS) has a 
pending acquisition package to obtain independent contractor support to 
conduct a TEES Program Assessment and Validate the Consolidated TEES 
Functional Requirements Document (August 2003). The program assessment 
will result in a written report that documents the outcomes of the 
assessment, provides recommendations on how the program should proceed, 
and provides an integrated schedule that maps out how the program 
objectives can be accomplished. Concurrently with the assessment, the 
consolidated functional requirements will be validated and the document 
updated to reflect any change in the requirements/business rules. The 
validated functional requirements document will also incorporate 
requirements and business rules for new benefits (such as the Chapter 
1607) and new or changed business processes. The anticipated award date 
for this contract is September 15, 2007, and the period of performance 
for these activities is 8 months. In conjunction with this effort, the 
EPMS is defining and implementing a program-level governance 
organization, gathering current project documentation so that it can be 
updated and routed for signature by key stakeholders, and developing an 
integrated TEES project schedule. 

2. Once an integrated plan among related TEES initiatives has been 
completed and documented, revise the OMB exhibit 300s for TEES and 
related efforts to ensure that duplication in efforts and budgets is 
eliminated and funding is consistent with timelines. 

Concur – Again, the VA IT realignment has resulted in a governance 
process that will influence TEES as well as other Exhibit 300 
initiatives in ensuring duplication of efforts and budgets are 
eliminated. It should be noted that VBIT is restructuring its OMB 
Exhibit 300s for FY09 to reflect delivery of functional capabilities 
across the enterprise vs. business specific programs/projects. 
Requirements for TEES will be included in the new Automated Claims 
Processing Assistance Solution OMB Exhibit 300. The Education Project 
Management Service (EPMS) will work with the responsible project 
manager for the Automated Claims Processing Assistance Solution OMB 
Exhibit 300 to ensure TEES timelines, requirements, risks and budget 
requirements are accurately reflected in the VA's FY09 submission. In 
addition, based on timeline constraints, the EPMS will work with the 
appropriate Office of Information and 2

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) comments to Government 
Accountability Office (GAO) draft report VETERANS AFFAIRS: Improved 
Planning Needed to Guide Development and Implementation of Education 
Benefits System (GAO-07-1045):

(Continued):  

Technology (01&T) staff to re-baseline the FY08 TEES OMB Exhibit 300 to 
ensure that timelines and funding are consistent with stated TEES 
objectives. 

Action Plan: The EPMS will use the results of the TEES Program 
Assessment and integrated scheduling efforts to revise and update the 
OMB Exhibit 300 submissions. The EPMS will coordinate with related 
program offices, such as Benefits Delivery Network (BDN) Rehosting and 
the Finance and Accounting System (FAS), to ensure that intersections 
and dependencies have been identified and accounted for in all 
schedules, which will result in an elimination of the possibility of 
redundant efforts. 

3. Obtain stakeholders' commitment of resources as necessary to ensure 
that functional requirements are revalidated and updated as necessary 
for an interface between FAS and the future VBA education systems. 

Concur - The EPMS currently has an acquisition underway to obtain 
support to conduct a validation of the existing Consolidated TEES 
Functional Requirements document. Through the revised TEES Charter and 
Program Management Plan, the EPMS will obtain stakeholder commitment of 
resources to ensure that the consolidated functional requirements 
(including FAS interface requirements) are revalidated and properly 
documented. 

Action Plan: The EPMS will revise current project documentation such as 
the charter, project management plan, requirements management plan, 
risk management plan, and integrated schedule to reflect TEES program 
direction and objectives. The EPMS will obtain concurrence from key 
stakeholders on the revised documents to ensure buy-in and support. The 
requirements validation effort being undertaken by the EPMS will elicit 
any requirements associated with new education benefits programs, such 
as chapter 1607, and new education business processes. The current 
document requirements contain the functional requirements associated 
with sending education transactions to FAS for accounting and payment. 
These requirements were originally developed, documented and concurred 
upon by the ORM. Stakeholder commitment to these activities will be 
obtained through project documentation such as the charter and program 
management plan. 

[End of section] 

Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Valerie C. Melvin (202) 512-6304 or melvinv @gao.gov: 

Staff Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the contact named above, key contributions to this 
report were made by Barbara Oliver, Assistant Director; Charles Youman; 
B. Scott Pettis; Matthew R. Grote; and Amos A. Tevelow. 

Footnotes: 

[1] Education benefit claims are processed at four VA regional offices.

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