Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Jared Serbu report that the Department of Veterans Affairs says it is determined to eliminate the backlog of nearly 630,000 disability claims and says the number will be down to zero by 2015, even though the current backlog includes 30,000 more cases than it did a year ago. "There are many people, including myself, who are losing patience as we continue to hear the same excuses from VA about increased workload and increased complexity of claims," says Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Members of Congress have zeroed in on figures that appear to show that despite an influx of new claims adjudication personnel, the number of cases handled per full-time equivalent staff member is declining. "The data I have says that in 1997, we were doing 136 claims per field employee. Today that number is 73," says Rep. Kevin McCarthy. The VA's Allison Hickey says the VA is now taking major steps it's never taken before to speed up the claims process and that technology will be a major contributor to changing the trajectory of the backlog. VA is currently in the process of deploying its Veterans Benefits Management System to its field offices throughout the country.that will allow all new claims be processed electronically. "[Veterans] can, today, go online and submit a claim in an interface that's a lot like TurboTax," says Hickey. "They can upload their own medical evidence, and it goes directly into our paperless IT system." In addition the Pentagon has agreed for the first time to provide VA with a verified, complete package of medical records when a service member is discharged from one of the military services. "They're certifying to me that they have all the service member's medical evidence in that one record so that I'm not doing what I'm doing now, which is exhaustively going out and searching for records that we don't own and never owned in the beginning.""
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