Improved Productivity Can Reduce the Cost of Administering Veterans Benefit Programs

AFMD-83-12: Published: Dec 22, 1982. Publicly Released: Dec 22, 1982.

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GAO reviewed the processing of claims for Veterans Administration (VA) compensation, pension, education, and death benefits to identify alternative operating methods that could result in higher productivity and lower costs.

GAO found that employee experience levels and education, local unemployment, wage scales, the percentage of employees new to their jobs, and other factors were not significantly related to the differences in claims processing productivity between stations. Several field stations that had low performance in claims processing had reasonably good performance in guarantee operations, which indicates that VA should not expect the productivity of all field stations to be within a reasonably close range and that this goal can be achieved by staffing lower performance stations in the same manner as other stations. If VA management changes its approach to staffing decisions, substantial savings can be attained by eliminating overstaffing at the stations with lower claims processing performance. The amount of overstaffing can be determined by using VA productivity measures, which indicate the relative efficiency of processing claims. GAO found that idle time was more common at some stations with low productivity and that there were minor procedural variations at these stations, which added time to claims processing and absorbed some of the excess staffing. GAO was unable to find a significant statistical relationship between quality of work and productivity levels.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should require the chief benefits director to establish a continuing program to help all stations to improve their productivity, with particular emphasis on low performance stations.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: VA believes, despite GAO evidence to the contrary, that demographic and economic factors found in northern U.S. cities are related to low employee productivity. Hence, lower workload/staffing ratios should be allowed, for example, in the New York City office.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should require the chief benefits director to change the management decision to provide extra staff at certain stations, and thereby reduce staffing at low performance stations.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration


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