Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Data Access for Veterans

The Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense are working to improve the functionality of “eBenefits”, a joint self-service web portal that provides registered users with secure online information and access to a variety of military and veterans benefits resources. There are currently 2.2 million users with access to the system and VA is trying to meet the 2013 agency priority goal of 2.5 million users.

The latest “eBenefits 4.3 at www.ebenefits.va.gov enables easy navigation of the online disability compensation claim submission process using interview-style questions and drop-down menus similar to tax preparation software, instead of a traditional fill-in-the-blank form.  

The latest release also pre-populates the application with information from a veteran’s record in the VA database. Other site improvements include a tool to help determine if a veteran is eligible for vocation rehabilitation and employment benefits along with the ability to access DOD TRICARE health insurance status.

In another project to help speed the medical and disability process, VHA has launched a new initiative called “Acceptable Clinical Evidence” (ACE) that could eliminate the requirement for in-person medical exams providing there is sufficient information in the medical record. This would be of value for some veterans since it would shorten the time it takes to process disability compensation claims. ACE was developed by both the VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration in a joint effort to provide a veteran-centric approach for disability examinations.

With the new initiative, a VA medical provider would complete a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) by reviewing existing medical evidence. This evidence could then be supplemented with information obtained during a telephone interview with the veteran and possibly eliminate the need for some veterans to report for an in-person exam.

If the VA can complete a DBQ by reviewing medical records already on file, then the ACE process will be used. This would expedite the determination of disability ratings and in turn, eliminate the wait time to schedule and conduct an exam from the claims process. During a 15 month pilot test at one VA regional claims processing office, 38 percent of claims submitted were eligible for ACE.

The ACE initiative is part of the VBA’s agency-wide Transformation Plan, a five year, multifaceted organization change that is based on more than 40 personnel, process and technology initiatives designed to improve claims processing. The goal of the Plan is to eliminate the claims backlog and process all claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy in 2015.