Earlier this month, VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey released an article about the effectiveness of the Department of Veterans Affairs new pilot programs to reduce benefit claim waiting times and increase accuracy rates. Their new initiative is this:
“Start processing the oldest claims first.”
Since the majority of claims are still processed through paper records, one would think that the oldest claims would have always been processed first, since they, ostensibly, were filed before newer claims.
In fact, one of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s flagship programs, the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) was developed in 2010 and was scheduled for implementation in 2012. Unfortunately, despite wide-scale implementation of this software, this system has yet to fully complete even the simplest of disability claims end to end. Yet taxpayers are shelling out billions for rushed, poorly designed and ineffective schemes. (More details to come in a soon-to-be-released publication.)
What Hickey’s article inadvertently says is that they have prioritized their new programs in order to drive down the processing times. Well, it works. Newer programs like the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, a joint VA-DOD program, have been producing substantially lower waiting times and increased accuracy rates. But it also means that the VA has essentially been cooking the books.
Hickey gets to take her numbers to Congress, commenting on the efficacy of her initiatives while carefully omitting the fact that not only have they changed how they calculate accuracy rates (see my previous post) but that they’re also prioritizing the new programs.
The truth is that old claims are old, and inaccurate, because they keep getting shuffled to the bottom in order to justify newer initiatives. These initiatives ultimately end up folding under pressure more than Tony Romo.