Status of VA Efforts To Improve the Management of Paper Records in the Department of Veterans Benefits--A Major System Acquisition Project

HRD-81-106: Published: Jun 30, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 13, 1981.

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GAO reported on the status of Veterans Administration efforts to improve the management of the Department of Veterans Benefits (DVB) paper records primarily through the use of micrographics. This effort is the DVB Micrographics and Automated Retrieval Systems (MARS) project which is being conducted as a major system acquisition pursuant to a uniform, executive procurement policy.

The MARS project has not progressed sufficiently to permit a complete assessment. There is considerable doubt regarding the future of the project because of fiscal year 1982 budget cuts. The current DVB efforts are to convert only loan guaranty files to micrographics. DVB does not intend to study the need to convert its remaining record holdings until micrographic centers have been established for the loan guaranty files. DVB has relied on paper records to establish claims and maintain veterans' files. These files are maintained in relatively expensive field station office space, and DVB estimates that field station space cost for active files will continue to rise. Because of the increasing cost of maintaining veteran paper files, DVB has begun to utilize more effectively its file storage space, reduce file retention for some programs, and it has initiated the MARS project to develop alternatives to its paper file systems at its field stations. The MARS study group installed three word processors, each with different capabilities, at a test site and initiated testing to develop various uses of the equipment and to evaluate the cost effectiveness of these uses in comparison with current methods. If regional office consolidation occurs, the amount of equipment required should be greatly reduced.

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