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Highlights

For years, the disability compensation claims process has been the subject of concern and attention by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Congress, and veteran service organizations (VSO), due in part to long waits for decisions and the large number of claims pending a decision. As GAO and other organizations have reported over the last decade, VA has also faced challenges in improving the accuracy and consistency of disability decisions. GAO was asked to examine (1) trends in VA's disability compensation claims processing at the initial claims and appeals levels and (2) actions that VA has taken to improve its disability claims process. To do this, GAO reviewed and analyzed VA performance data, budget submissions, program documents, and external studies and interviewed VA officials and VSO representatives.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Veterans Affairs 1. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the VBA to collect data on redistributed claims for development, rating, and appellate work to help assess the timeliness and accuracy of resource centers' output and the effectiveness of workload redistribution.
Closed - Implemented
VA agreed with the recommendation that VBA collect data on redistributed claims and appellate work to help assess the timeliness and accuracy of resource centers' output and the effectiveness of workload redistribution. In August 2010, VBA deployed a workload management tool to help collect timeliness data on redistributed claims and appellate work. This functionality and other inputs help VBA assess the effectiveness of workload redistribution.
Department of Veterans Affairs 2. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the VBA and the Board to establish an evaluation plan for assessing the ECA pilot process and guiding any expansion decisions. Such a plan should include criteria for determining how much improvement should be achieved under the pilot on specific performance measures--such as average VBA and Board processing times--and include methods for how VBA and the Board will consider ECA's impact on non-ECA claims and appeals processing before implementing the process widely.
Closed - Implemented
The Board worked with VBA to establish evaluation criteria and a plan for evaluating the Expedited Claims Adjudication (ECA) pilot.
Department of Veterans Affairs 3. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct VBA to establish a plan to evaluate its claims processing reorganization pilot and guide any expansion decisions. Such a plan should include criteria for determining how much improvement should be achieved in the pilot on specific performance measures--such as decision timeliness and accuracy--before the process is implemented throughout VBA.
Closed - Implemented
VBA established a plan with criteria to evaluate its claims processing reorganization pilot.

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