Due to its proximity to large military facilities such as Naval Base San Diego and Camp Pendleton Marine Base, Los Angeles is home to many veterans. A Number of these veterans have special needs as a result of their military service. On July 11, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it is deploying a new model for processing compensation benefits claims at 16 VA regional offices. Los Angeles is not included among these 16 facilities; however, the LA facility will be updated before the end of 2013.The VA notes that the new model is part of a comprehensive transformation plan designed to yield an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 additional compensation claim decisions annually, while ensuring veterans most in need receive priority attention.
“This new model is a part of our comprehensive plan to eliminate the compensation claims backlog,” noted Under Secretary for Benefits, Allison A. Hickey. He added, “Our redesigned model follows comprehensive planning and testing to ensure we have the right recipe for success.” The new organizational model entails special handling of claims from veterans who have one or more of the following problems, thus, needing immediate attention: serious injuries; major illnesses; financial hardships; or homelessness.
Through a new “intake processing center,” claims are routed to one of three segmented lanes:
- Express: Claims that have only one or two medical conditions, or have all the supporting documentation, medical evidence and service records needed for an expeditious rating decision—referred to as “fully developed claims”.
- Special Operations: Claims requiring special handling because of the unique circumstances of the veterans. These include financial hardship; homelessness; serious wounds, injuries or illnesses; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with military sexual trauma; and former prisoner of war status.
- Core: Claims with more than two medical conditions, or those that will need additional evidence to make a compensation decision.
The VA notes that the segmented-lanes approach is expected to increase the speed and accuracy of claims processing because the claims specialists become familiar with processing claims of similar complexity. Veterans and their Veterans Service Organization representatives are encouraged to provide all the needed evidence along with their application in a “fully developed claim” in order to expedite the process.
The 16 regional offices that have been updated with the new organizational and process model are: Huntington, West Virginia.; Hartford, Connecticut.; Portland, Oregon; Houston, Texas; Cleveland, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; Phoenix, Arizona; New Orleans, Louisiana; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Atlanta, Georgia.; Indianapolis, Indiana.; Wichita, Kansas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; and Fort Harrison, Montana These offices will also receive new technology systems and software upgrades over the next three months. All 56 VA regional offices, including Los Angeles, will have fully implemented all of the people, process, and technology initiatives in VA’s transformation plan by the end of 2013.
To learn more about how to file “fully developed claims” using VA’s new Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs), click on this link.