Veterans' Benefits:

Status of Claims Processing Initiative in VA's New York Regional Office

HEHS-94-183BR: Published: Jun 17, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) restructuring of its claims processing system in its New York Regional Office, focusing on: (1) the differences between the prototype unit's operations and traditional VA claims processing operations; (2) VA assessment of the prototype unit's effectiveness and performance; and (3) VA plans for expanding the use of the prototype.

GAO found that: (1) the prototype unit differs from the traditional claims processing unit in its staff roles and responsibilities and direct interactions between veterans and claims processors; (2) under the prototype, fewer people are involved in processing a single claim and files are located with the work team rather than in a central location; (3) VA headquarters and the regional office do not have a written assessment plan for the prototype, but they are using traditional monitoring techniques to assess its effectiveness; (4) communications with veterans have improved and claims backlogs have decreased, but the unit's effect on the timeliness of claims processing has not yet been demonstrated; (5) the prototype's cost per claim is 20 percent less than the traditional unit's; and (6) the regional office plans to use the work-team approach to process all claims by the end of fiscal year 1994, but it first has to implement related initiatives, such as new job descriptions, an employee rating system, and an officewide performance assessment system.

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