Veterans' Benefits: Further Changes in VBA's Field Office Structure Could Help Improve Disability Claims Processing

GAO-06-149 Published: Dec 09, 2005. Publicly Released: Dec 09, 2005.
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Highlights

The Chairman, former Chairman, and Ranking Minority Member, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs asked GAO to review the Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA) efforts to realign its compensation and pension claims processing field structure to improve performance. This report (1) identifies the actions VBA has taken to realign its compensation and pension claims processing field structure to improve performance, and (2) examines whether further changes to its field structure could improve performance.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Veterans Affairs To help ensure more timely, accurate, and consistent decisions in a cost-effective manner, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to undertake a comprehensive review of VBA's field structure for processing disability compensation and pension claims. This review would address staff deployment, opportunities for consolidating disability compensation and pension claims processing, and human capital and real property issues.
Closed – Implemented
In February 2006, VBA chartered a workgroup to recommend compensation activities that could be realigned more efficiently and effectively. The group made three short-term recommendations and VBA has begun to implement them. VBA has almost completed consolidating all general inquiry telephone calls to National Call Centers (NCCs)in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Columbia, Nashville, Muskogee, St. Louis, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. VBA plans to consolidate calls to two more offices, St. Petersburg and Indianapolis, by the end of fiscal year 2009. VBA centralized all Western Area fiduciary activities to the Salt Lake City fiduciary hub, and will make a determination on further implementation of the fiduciary hub concept in fiscal year 2010. VBA established a work group to recommend an implementation strategy for consolidating survivor benefit claims, and plans to complete the consolidation of survivor benefit claims processing to the three Pension Management Centers in August 2009. VBA plans to continue to look for opportunities to consolidate functions to achieve greater processing efficiencies.

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