VA Tests New Automated Program to Speed Up Claims Decisions
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initiated a pilot run of a new automated system to address the increasing claims and appeals backlog. Launched in December, the VA Automated Benefits Delivery System aims to significantly shorten the VA review process for certain conditions under certain circumstances.
The automated system cuts down the decision review process by 98 days for veterans with complete claims files. This effectively reduces the timeline for processing claims from the standard 100 days to only two. As of now, the test system only applies to veterans seeking an increased rating for service-connected hypertension.
How Does the Automated Benefits Delivery System Work?
Essentially, the Automated Benefits Delivery System uses algorithms to determine if a claim contains enough evidence to render a decision. If it does, it then compares the information in the claim to previously rated disabilities to decide if service connection is warranted. It also uses this information to pre-populate the rating calculator and draft a potential rating decision.
If the claim does not have enough medical evidence, the system will automatically request a medical exam. If any other information is needed, the claim is sent to a VA claim reviewer for traditional processing. Claims that require an additional exam can now be processed in about 50 days.
VA created a new team to handle the system called the Office of Automated Benefit Delivery. Although potential rating decisions are drafted by the system, the Office has stated that at no point in time will the decisions be left entirely to the automated system. VA employees will continue to review every decision and regulate the algorithm.
What Does This Mean for Veterans?
The Automated Benefits Delivery System is proving to be successful for hypertension claims. Therefore, VA is looking to expand the automation pilot in the coming months to process additional disability claims. Claims for asthma, sleep apnea, and prostate cancer are currently being considered for the program, and VA plans to continue to add three new conditions per quarter.
Due to VA’s backlog at almost every level of the claims and appeals process, hundreds and thousands of veterans have been left without access to the benefits they rightfully deserve and often depend upon to support themselves and their families. This new automation system will hopefully reduce the claims and appeals backlog and help veterans obtain their disability benefits more quickly.
VA Disability Claims and Appeals Backlog Update
As of March 12, 2022, VA is experiencing a backlog of 247,707 claims. This is a significant jump from the 210,000 claims backlog reported in September. Claims are considered “backlogged” if they have been pending in VA’s system for more than 125 days. VA’s current goal is to cut its backlogged claims down to 100,000 by April 2024.
According to VA, the department has hired more than 1,000 new claims processors and plans to hire 1,000 more by the end of spring to tackle the backlog.
Board of Veterans’ Appeals Backlog
Additionally, 79,845 appeals are pending in the Legacy system and 120,390 are pending in the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) system as of February 27, 2022. This combines to a total of 200,235 pending appeals at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
The Board’s goal for Fiscal Year 2022 is to dispatch 111,500 decisions. However, as of February 27, 2022, only 34,673 appeals have been processed for this fiscal year across both Legacy and AMA systems.
Do You Need Assistance with Your VA Claim or Appeal?
Despite VA’s efforts to decrease the backlogs at all stages of the claims and appeals process, there is still a long way to go. VA’s backlog is making an already challenging process for veterans even more frustrating.
If your claim for benefits was denied and you need assistance appealing the decision, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help. The accredited attorneys and advocates at CCK have decades of experience representing veterans before VA, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). Reach out today to schedule a free case review with a member of our team.
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