VA Seeks Contractor Support in Developing IT Software for Appeals Reform
What is Caseflow?
Caseflow is a suite of web-based tools designed to replace the 1980s-era Veterans Appeals Control and Locator System (VACOLS), which VA presently uses to handle appeals. The development of Caseflow is consistent with VA’s focus on modernizing the appeals process. By creating a better, more efficient process for handling and deciding appeals using modern technology, VA hopes to reduce preventable errors and avoidable delays caused by the current disorganized, manual processing. As new Caseflow functions are installed, corresponding functions in VACOLS are turned off. Each component of Caseflow is evaluated to determine whether it serves its goal to “empower employees with technology to increase timely, accurate appeals decisions and improve the veteran experience”. There are currently nine Caseflow applications in varying stages of viability:
- Caseflow Certification. Improves data accuracy in the transfer of appeals between jurisdictions.
- eFolder Express. Enables a one-click download of a veteran’s eFolder; used to download more than 800,000 documents per month.
- Caseflow Dispatch. Facilitates the transfer of Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) decisions to the Agency of Original Jurisdiction that is required to process them.
- Caseflow Hearing Prep. Streamlines the work involved for BVA judges as they prepare for hearings, improves the veteran experience at hearings, and increases available judge time for issuing decisions.
- Caseflow Intake. Serves as a front door for all VA reviews under Appeals Reform, and allows VA to track appeals across disparate systems within multiple administrations.
- Caseflow Reader. Makes BVA attorney and judge review of the thousands of documents in veterans’ eFolders faster and more complete.
- Caseflow Queue. Distributes appeals on legacy and Appeals Reform dockets to facilitate timely decisions, increase the accuracy of appeals data, manage appeal processing work items for BVA staff, and streamline processes at the BVA wherever possible.
- Appeals Status API. Leverages Caseflow data improvements to provide transparent, personalized information on VA.gov so that veterans can make informed decisions about their appeals.
- Caseflow Hearing Schedule. Manages the scheduling of video and in-person hearings across multiple BVA dockets.
VA Submits Request for Information Regarding Caseflow
According to VA, no Caseflow products are fully finished at this time, but all nine will need to be in a state of minimal viability upon full implementation of Appeals Reform scheduled for February 14, 2019. Accordingly, VA is seeking additional contractor support as it continues to develop this system. VA posted a Request for Information (RFI) online through FedBizOpps (i.e. Federal Business Opportunities) on December 31, 2018 seeking contractor help with tasks such as project management, training, and help desk support. The RFI requests that potential contractors submit a case study that demonstrates the contractor’s ability to fulfill VA’s needs as outlined in its Draft Appeals Modernization Performance Work Statement. Specifically, contractors must be able to work with VA to appropriately prioritize functionality requests for every single Caseflow product in order to reach a stage of minimal viability ahead of the full implementation of Appeals Reform. Furthermore, contractors must be able to build new Caseflow tools and continuously improve existing functionality. All responses to VA’s RFI are due by 3pm on January 14, 2019.
Current Limitations in Caseflow
As the development of Caseflow is ongoing and VA is continuing to work towards a state of minimal viability, the ability to do certain tasks in Caseflow is limited. Such limitations include the following:
- Adding and editing issues (only applicable to Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) appeals)
- Contested claimants
- Congressional inquiry
- Updating veteran information
Nonetheless, each product at a stage of minimal viability will still require significant development.
Future Goals of Caseflow
Once it is fully viable, Caseflow intends to do the following in order to contribute to the overall goal of reducing preventable errors and avoidable delays:
- Consolidate co-located cases in one place
- Facilitate better understanding of tasks to be completed and their instructions
- Facilitate quicker follow-up when cases have completed their holds
- Allow better tracking of cases in abeyance (i.e. a state of inactivity)
Implications of VA’s Request for Information
VA’s RFI regarding Caseflow is concerning given the rapidly approaching deadline of February 14, 2019, as the system is expected to be fully functional upon the complete implementation of Appeals Reform. Therefore, VA’s need to seek outside support and assistance in the development and advancement of this program reflects a lack of overall readiness. Although Caseflow is aimed towards streamlining and modernizing the appeals process, a minimally operative system will likely perpetuate the current delays and errors existing in the Legacy appeals system.
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