Veterans Benefits:

Training for Claims Processors Needs Evaluation

GAO-01-601: Published: May 31, 2001. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2001.

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The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) developed a computer-assisted training program, known as the Training and Performance Support System (TPSS), to help its employees become more accurate in processing disability compensation and pension claims. The program seeks to provide uniform and consistent training to employees in 57 regional offices. Although VBA's long-term goal is to attain a 96 percent accuracy rate for claims processing, VBA reported an accuracy rate of only 59 percent for fiscal year 2000. This report reviews (1) the status of the TPSS program's development and implementation and (2) the extent to which TPSS will meet its objectives. GAO found that despite VBA's objective to centrally develop a standardized training program, significant delays in the development of TPSS are hindering the program's ability to provide standardized training to claims processing employees. According to VBA's current schedule, the full development of the program will not be completed until at least 2004, or about two years later than VBA had planned. Although VBA provided nine training modules to regional offices to begin the program, the extent to which the offices implemented them varied considerably. Many offices reported that workload pressures prevented them from fully using the modules. GAO found that TPSS might not fully achieve its objectives. For instance, TPSS training modules may not be available in time to train new employees hired to replace employees who are expected to retire in the future. Furthermore, TPSS may not reduce training time, as envisioned by VBA.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To further strengthen VBA's ability to provide timely, standardized training to its regional office employees who process disability claims, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to explore alternative means to deliver timely standardized training, such as the VBA Satellite Network, to determine whether the topics that are covered through such alternative means could be eliminated from plans for future TPSS modules.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In April 2002, VBA stated that immediately following its training sessions, VBA evaluated its Special Monthly Compensations training. This evaluation indicated that the use of satellite training proved a highly efficient means of delivering training. With some success using alternative means for delivering standardized training, VBA will continue to pursue other such media for "just-in-time" training where appropriate, and where TPSS is not available or feasible.

    Recommendation: To further strengthen VBA's ability to provide timely, standardized training to its regional office employees who process disability claims, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to develop formal plans for evaluating the impact of TPSS on claims-processing accuracy and consistency. For example, VBA could use individual performance data obtained from the Systematic Individual Performance Assessment to provide indications of the impact of TPSS on accuracy. VBA could also conduct a baseline assessment of consistency, such as testing control cases in regional offices, and then conduct periodic assessments to provide indications of whether TPSS is helping to improve consistency. explore alternative means to deliver timely standardized training, such as the VBA Satellite Network, to determine whether the topics that are covered through such alternative means could be eliminated from plans for future TPSS modules.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: VA originally believed it would link individual learning accomplished through the Training and Performance Support System (TPSS) with the results of individual performance assessments conducted through its planned Systematic Individual Performance Assessment (SIPA) program. With data provided through this linkage, VA planned to develop a formal plan to evaluate the impact of TPSS on claims processing accuracy. However, in July 2005 VA said it had not implemented SIPA in the form originally envisioned and, as a result, the data VA originally thought it could use as the basis for evaluating TPSS is not available.

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