Veterans Benefits Administration:

Problems and Challenges Facing Disability Claims Processing

T-HEHS/AIMD-00-146: Published: May 18, 2000. Publicly Released: May 18, 2000.

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Stephen P. Backhus
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA) claims processing operations, focusing on: (1) long-standing performance problems; (2) claims processing complexities; (3) challenges to improving performance; and (4) VBA's initiatives to improve performance.

GAO noted that: (1) VBA's problems with large backlogs and long waits for decisions have not yet improved, despite years of studying these problems; (2) moreover, VBA's new quality measurement system shows that nearly one-third of decisions are incorrect or have technical or procedural errors; (3) many performance problems stem from the process's complexity, which is growing as the number of service-connected disabilities per veteran increases and judicial review requires more procedures and documentation; (4) although VBA has initiated a number of efforts to streamline its claims processing performance, it is unclear how much improvement will be gained; (5) VBA may need to collect and analyze additional case-specific data to better understand its claims processing problems and better target its corrective actions; and (6) because some issues affecting VBA's performance are a function of program design, more fundamental changes may have to be considered to realize significant improvements.

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