A pilot program being conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is testing whether using a private contractor to collect healthcare records from private physicians can speed the processing of veterans' disability compensation claims.
VA officials say using a private contractor will help assist in collecting private medial records that support a veteran's application for benefits. The contractor will scan the records into a digital format and send them to VA through a secure transmission.
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said the pilot aims to validate estimates that a specialized contract can yield records required to process veterans' disability compensation claims in seven to 10 days instead of the VA's average of 40 days. Moreover, the contract frees VA staff to focus on core duties to process claims more quickly.
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"Innovations that will speed, simplify or improve our services to veterans are receiving rigorous tests at VA," said Shinseki. "We are committed to harnessing the best technology and the brightest minds in the government and private sector to ensure veterans receive the benefits they have earned."
This project is one of more than three dozen initiatives supporting the VA's claims transformation plan, which aims to ensure that by 2015 veterans' claims are decided within 125 days.
VA officials emphasize that in all cases veterans must sign documents approving the release of their medical records to the department from private healthcare providers.
The pilot is expected to involve about 60,000 records requests among regional benefits offices in Phoenix, New York City, St. Louis, Portland, Ore., Chicago, Anchorage, Alaska, Indianapolis and Jackson, Miss.