President Obama's order of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan has placed additional pressure on the Veteran's Adminsitration (VA). Already troubled by hundreds of thousands of backlogged disability cases, the VA is now faced with a potential wave of new claims as troops prepare to mobilize.
The Following 5 Steps Would Be a Good Start for the VA to Help Implement Reform:
1) Lower the Production Quota
Processors are currently required to rate 3.5 claims a day. If done properly, rating a veterans' disability claim is very time-consuming, and it's not uncommon for a processor to fall below this quota.
When a processor falls behind on their quotas, they and their managers run the risk of being fired. Needless to say, people begin to take shortcuts, thus leading to errors and inaccuracies, and, ultimately, denied veterans' disability claims.
2) Hire More Veterans' Disability Claims Processors!
If we lower the production quota to ensure a more accurate handling of the claims, then the VA could use their recent budget increase to hire more claims processors. This would increase quality control, alleviate the backlog of pending claims, and reduce time and money lost on correcting errors. Additionally, the VA could adequately staff regional offices based on battlefield statistics to help anticipate where injured veterans would be filing their claim.
3) Training, Training, Training.
Claims processors need to be accurately trained to help reduce the possibility of error. Errors committed on claims hurt a disabled veteran's chance of receiving needed benefits, but it also costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in overpayments.
4) Switch Up the Performance-Ratings System.
Perhaps it's time the VA began to rate a claims processors' performance on the number of injuries they rate. There are several disabled veterans' claims that only have "some" of their injuries processed, thus by altering the performance-ratings' system, it makes it easier for the VA to award partial payments to veterans.
5) Penalize the VA for Poor Performance.
Any time a decision is overturned on appeal, the claims processors and the VA regional offices they work at should lose production credit. By increasing the risk of losing production credit, the VA is forced to take measurable steps to ensure effective claims handling is occurring.