VA Decreasing GI Bill Processing Time with New Automation Tools

Roger W. Baker, the Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology testified today before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. The following includes excerpts from his testimony:

In June 2008, Congress passed the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, establishing a new education benefit program under chapter 33 of title 38 United States Code, which VA refers to as the “Post-9/11 GI Bill.”  This was the most extensive educational assistance program authorized since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944.

When the Post-9/11 GI Bill was passed by Congress and signed into law, VA had approximately 13 months to develop a new, complex system to process the newly eligible beneficiaries under the brand new program. Since then, VA has provided more than $25.9 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments to over 911,000 Veterans, Servicemembers, and their families, and to the universities, colleges, and trade schools they attend.

Creating new processes to provide timely Post-9/11 GI Bill payments to schools and student Veterans was an enormous challenge – and we have continued to improve our processes to ensure Veterans’ transition to student life is as simple as possible – so they can focus on the most important thing, their studies.

As part of our efforts to improve Post-9/11 GI Bill claims processing and transform VA to a digital operating environment, we have implemented a technology upgrade that cuts in half the time it takes VA to process benefit payments for currently enrolled students when compared to this time last year.

The process, which we call Long Term Solution (LTS), is an automated, end-to-end claims processing system that utilizes rules-based, industry-standard technologies for the delivery of Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits. If effectively takes human claims processors out of the equation – using computer systems to process claims.

The calculation of benefits paid under Chapter 33 is a complex process.  LTS has over 1,600 calculation rules that support benefits for Veterans, Servicemembers, and transferees.  Seven types of training are supported, including: graduate, undergraduate, non-college degree, correspondence, apprenticeship and on-the-job training.  Up to six benefits are calculated per term, including: housing, books and supplies, tuition and fees and Yellow Ribbon.

LTS also supports the entry of unlimited service periods, enrollment periods, and changes to enrollment periods. Post-9/11 GI Bill recipients are taking advantage of their education benefits in a variety of different education environments – and time tables – and ensuring that all different types of GI Bill claims are processed quickly and efficiently was essential in building an automated processes.

The bottom line is LTS is working. Processing timeliness has improved significantly since implementation. At the end of January, we had approximately 86,000 claims pending, 50 percent lower than the total claims pending the same time last year.  The average days to process Post-9/11 GI Bill supplemental claims has decreased by 16 days, from 23 days in September 2012 to 8 days in January 2013.  The average time to process Post-9/11 GI Bill original education benefit claims in January was 34 days.

Veterans’ educational benefits are the vehicle by which many of our Nation’s heroes pursue their educational goals and successfully transition to civilian life.  VA is dedicated to ensuring that Veterans are able to make well-informed decisions concerning the use of their benefits and receive a quality education. We will continue to work hard to improve our education benefits delivery processes and we will take the lessons learned in automating these education claims and use them to improve delivery of all VA benefits.

Samantha O’Neil is a communications specialist with the Veterans Benefits Administration.

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21 Comments to “VA Decreasing GI Bill Processing Time with New Automation Tools”

  1. don morby says:

    The VA overall is failing. The new system being put in place for claims (disability for example) has almost doubled the processing times, resulted in lost documents, wrong decisions , and green new hires that do not have experience with claims. Wait times for decisions can take years instead of the proclaimed 275 days. I know new systems have bugs but the adverse effect this has on claimants is overwhelming and anxiety causing to say the least.

      • Tom Dullaghan says:

        Yes I agree. Workers have complained to there managers at the Veterans Affairs Center everywhere! The new system is not WORKING!!!! You go in the service, and end up having a disability . Good luck getting help from the VA.
        This Vietnam Vet,made sure my sons were not going to go in the service.

        This country does not care about their Vets. There actions speak for them selfs.

    • Arch Yeomans says:

      The GAO should investigate what is going on here. If the leadership at the VA can’t get its act together then maybe some changes need to occur. Congress needs to know where it really needs to make the cuts and changes. This is one of them that should be high on the priority list. That is absolutely disheartening to see veterans basically lose out because of the idiotic thinking on how to run things at the VA. What’s their purpose for existing if they can’t do their effing jobs in a timely manner?

  2. Joseph Simpson says:

    This is exactly what needs to stop with the VA. They continue to feed the American public with this type of B.S. on how well they are doing when the facts are that Most Veterans are suffering as a direct result of the things the VA and VA officials and in many cases employees put veterans through with claims. The VA spends millions on studies on what is wrong and why so many vets give up, too many choose suicide or homelessness over dealing with the VA. The VA violates the law and due process rights and they get away with it. This Must Stop and accountability of VA officials is mandated by law. The VA does not need to look too far to find out what is wrong, walk into any VA Regional Office, read the OIG reports or college studies and look on Any VA site, there are several stories Everyday on the suffering of Veterans and how they are or already have lost everything they own due directly to the VA claims process. Things will only only continue to get worse until the VA stops the games and owns up to it’s total failure including the death of countless veterans. It will eventually come out there are more people in the media starting to realize there is a problem and it is Bigger they they ever thought.

    • GerryH says:

      STOP THE STUDIES. JUST DO THE WORK, PAY THE VETERANS WHAT THEY DESERVE. STOP PAYING BONUSES WHEN THE WORK ISN’T DONE CORRECTLY.

      • Alex Kaleta says:

        Why are we paying bonuses to government agencies? The govenment is not making a profit. It is our taxes that is paying the salaries of the government officials. Have they not heard about the budget deficit?

  3. Russell says:

    Very good article Sam!
    Keep your fingers crossed on it’s functionality!

  4. Maria Gallo says:

    The VA Administration is extremely overwhelmed; no argument can be made about that. When you look at workloads I think they are doing pretty good with what they have to work with. There’s a wait but patience to sit back and let them do their job instead of calling and calling and calling and emailing over and over and continually complaining only slows things down more. It takes manpower to address call, e mails and complaints when that manpower could be used more productively. I appreciate ALL that VA does for me and my family. I think they are great…..and YES, Ive had to wait years for compensation processing.

    • Arch Yeomans says:

      I wholeheartedly disagree with you here. The problem with the VA is that it doesn’t set deadlines and therefore they are not held accountable for busting suspense dates. The calls and complaints would lessen if they would get their act together. Sitting around in limbo not knowing what is happening is putting your faith in an airplane that has not been maintained and an aircrew that is not fully qualified or able to fly that plane. Soon as parts start making unusual noises, the passengers will ask questions and even demand to get off the plane–and rightfully so. The plane goes down in flames for those who sheepishly accept the VA is competent to fly their apparent and obvious broken machine. Many large organizations run with greater efficiency than the VA and they don’t make up excuses or have people make excuses for them, they maintain their planes and fly them with competent leadership and effective employees. They reach their targets or destinations on time for the most part. Sure they may have glitches, every once in a while but they resolve them ASAP. Otherwise, imagine what it would be like to tell your passengers they will spend 12 hours in the hour to reach a destination that can be done by car in 2 hours–your airline would go out of business because it would have no relevance for existing. This is what the VA is doing to veterans and to itself.

  5. AM I still eligible to go to school even though It has been years since I was discharged. I served from 1968 – 1977. I am asking am I eligible to go back to school or trade school?

    Sincerely,

    Stephen G. Godfrey Sr.

    • Kate Hoit says:

      Hi Stephen,

      Once you have separated from the service you have 10 years to use all of your benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill and 15 years to use you Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Here’s a link for more information: http://gibill.va.gov/

      Kate

    • John Lock says:

      Steven, although your entitlements for GI Bill have passed you mave have some options with VRAP (look in your ebenfits to apply), also you may have vocational rehabilitation to apply for if you are service connected (S/C). If you are not S/C then you may have something you can apply for. Your time frame put you in the Vietnam era, did you serve in country Vietnam? If so then there are possible options, you should contact a Veteran Service Representative in your local area or just contact me at jlock@co.kern.ca.us
      Nationally Accredited Veteran Service Representative
      Retired Navy Chief

  6. Carl says:

    There is a mess somewhere. I have been trying for 4 years to receive 100% disability and have been refused three times. I am 75 years old, cannot work or do much of any thing. My doctors have certified that I am premanently disabled and yet it takes years to get approval. What is the problem?

  7. Karl MG Oertel says:

    Delay, deny, wait till I die”

  8. Karl MG Oertel says:

    All this stuff is nothing but LIP SERVICE to our elected officals.They are telling our Elected officals what they want them to hear so they look good and the same is happening with the US Postal Service and Pres.OBama did the same during his Inagural and state of the union address
    Let me Repeat : Delay, deny, wait till I die”

  9. Steve Jackson says:

    Some of the comments are true, hence having the opportunity to work at the VA I had an opportunity to notice the favoritism within the organization. The way capital is thrown around (Bonuses, Purchases and so forth) Their are some genuine personnel that actually care for us Vet’s and others that just out for themselves. Yes I believe the entire system needs some help and work. Overall this all has to be brought to attention so the top officials can see and stop looking at a civilian stand point expecting to bailed out by the goverment.

  10. Donald North says:

    The VA is responsible to take care of a small segment of the US populations needs, the segment that decide to serve our country via military service. Even though that segment is small in comparison to the number of people in the US, it does not imply that it shouls be easy to do so. The VA has consitstantly tried to implement ways to streamline the benefits process, and I would like to see more people give them credit for what they are doing on a daily basis to make a difference. Big government is a pain, but to blame all the worlds woes on the VA is not fair or logical. I do not work for the VA, and I am very pleased with their service. Can’t some of you out there that feel the same way please take the time to thank them instead of complaining?!

  11. Vincent says:

    This is a GI Bill Article not a C&P. I’m an SCO (student certifying official) at a university and I can tell processing time has gone down since I have less students coming to my office to complain about payments. Im not saying the VA system is perfect, but who is?