ACE Eliminates Need for Some In-Person Disability Exams

As part of VA’s transformation efforts, we are implementing people, process and technology initiatives to improve benefits delivery to Veterans – with the goal of improving accuracy and timeliness.

We recently launched a new initiative called Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE). This is a joint venture between the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and Veterans Health Administration (VHA).  ACE was developed and piloted at VBA’s St. Paul Regional Office and the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. During the pilot, ACE helped reduce the time to complete a Veteran’s Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) from a national average of 25 days down to just eight days; that’s a time saving of more than two weeks.

ACE gives VHA the option to review a Veteran’s existing medical records instead of performing an in-person or telehealth examination to complete a DBQ, expediting the disability ratings process by eliminating the wait time to schedule and conduct an in-person exam. DBQs are medical examination forms used to capture essential information for evaluating disability compensation or pension claims.

When a Veteran seeks compensation benefits, VA personnel review the claim to determine if additional medical information is necessary to render a disability rating.  If a medical evaluation or opinion is needed, VBA submits a request initiating VHA to schedule an exam for rating purposes. Under the new process, VHA can complete a DBQ without a medical exam if a Veteran’s existing medical records contain sufficient evidence.

ACE is one example of an improvement to VA’s processes that will help us meet our goal to eliminate the claims backlog and provide more timely benefits to our Veterans, their families and survivors. To learn more about our transformation initiatives, visit our Transformation website.

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

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27 Comments to “ACE Eliminates Need for Some In-Person Disability Exams”

  1. Carmen A Cantalupo says:

    I have ring in my ears VA said they give me 10% Disability on it with no Money I am retired Navy This happen on the USS Slyvania I went to ENT out side Doctor that told me it is Nerve Damage I did not have it Before I want in the Navy I fell I should have A Higher rating that 10% with this Thank you USN (RET) ENC(SW) Carmen A. Cantalupo

    • jim ory says:

      I to have ringing in my ears but it is accompanied by a aid. I was severe hearing loss. I was just hoping for help obtaining a hearing aid. Was rated 10% for ringing and 10% for hearing. Think it also had to do with the ringing interfering with my ability to understand what is said. I mentioned that to the vs audiologist AMD she included a test for that which I obviously failed. I understand that 20% is minimum to get a disability check. Have them do the test again and tell them about all your hearing problems. My disability testing was done at a local civilian facility. I had to go to the vs in atl for the hearing aid test and I get fitted for it next month. Total elapsed time from app to determination 8 months. Determination to hearing aids, 2 months. I was proactive and called them and didn’t wait for them to call me for next step.

  2. Dave Dockery says:

    I think this is a wonderful idea for those of with several medical conditions and advocates who don’t seem to know how to handle them. I have been working basically on my own because no advocate seems to know anything about gulf war illness and it has been very frustrating. Needless to say, I have ruffled some feathers with questions and not doing things according to procedure, but when you’re advocates tell you they can’t help you and to just give up and not appeal – what else do you do. It’s good to know that the V.A. is trying to resovle the issues quickly. Thank you for your support and due dilligence. I thought if I had to do the DBQ thing I might have just given up.

  3. J says:

    Now fix the 200 plus other days, on average, to process a claim.

    • Bob Bliss says:

      I recently received a payment from VA for home adaptation to put ramps around my home so I could use my wheelchair to go out and come in again. I had to take a loan out on my property to pay the contractor for his work, despite the fact that VA calls the service a “Grant.” It took the VA over a year and 1/2, and numerous letters to VA, DAV and my congressman to finally get the money owed me. So, excuse me if I find this new Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) approach to expediting Veteran’s claims any faster than it has in the past. I have always found that VA claims take very, very long to be decided, and even then it can take longer to get funds or services to the veteran. I think the jury is still out on this new initiative, as far as this veteran is concerned.

  4. J says:

    Moderation? Or, censorship.

  5. Lambda5555m says:

    Gimme a break please! I submitted all the civilian and military health records that documented the disabilities I had, but the mantra seems to be deny, deny, then deny again. This is a bunch of hooey! I have been over and over the same things and provided more than enough medical documentation and justification for my disabilities and yet, they still get denied. How much is enough? How about enough to break my back? Yeah, picking up my civilian medical records for my service-connected disabilities to take to the VA Regional Office here in Atlanta, actually did cause the compression fracture of my L-3 Vertebra, so yeah, I think I have provided enough paperwork, don’t you think? It wouldn’t have broken if the Army had told me and treated me back in 1991 when they knew about it and the VA could have told me and treated me when they found out about it in 1994, but also didn’t tell me or treat me for it. Shameful, just shameful. I still can’t get medications I need for my service-connected medical conditions because some have no generic equivalent. Go figure, so I have to use my civilian health insurance and have to pay $70 for a three month supply, as well as having to pay the premiums and co-pays to see the doctor to get refills. I have several medications that are name brand, yet it is like pulling teeth to get the VA to cover them and give them to me. I am a 100% Disabled Veteran and I still have so many problems with Desert Storm and Afghanistan claims and you wonder why Veterans are homeless. Deny, deny and deny again leads to homelessness and suicides. Maybe if you talked less and did more, those numbers might go down. The VA personnel who review our medical records to determine our disability are incompetent, don’t care, or just ignore what they see, otherwise they would have found out I had osteoporosis when they did many, many reviews of my medical records. It is unfortunate that the people that review our medical records and determine disability ratings are not qualified medical professionals, have no disabilities themselves, and have never served in a combat zone, so how can they figure out what the doctors have written in the files if I can’t with a Master’s Degree in Administration, attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was a GS-13 with the Federal Government? Even with all that, I couldn’t read nor understand some of the medical notes scribbled my the doctors I saw, so how can they? I think I have done a much better review than they ever did. I call this “theft by taking”, because what they do is criminal in…

  6. Frances Motley says:

    Having reviewed many Chronological Military Medical records and the MEB PEB examination reports, I am VERY concerned that there is no checks and balances here. Each psychological report for PTSD Wounded Warriors have a much more accurate evaluation than contained in the military record; often making the PTSD diagnosis when the Military records documents the symptoms and states the SM “does not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD” . It certainly does reduce the time required to process however where is the independent evaluation that the quality and accuracy of the current evaluation process. We must be certain that they are equivalent. Our military men and women do not need speed over accuracy.

  7. Ron Davis says:

    It has been my experience that the VA denies all claims regardless of the documentation you have. Deny, deny, deny, till you give up and go away….

    • m. williams says:

      I will never give up. The army is the reason why i have disabilities and you are right they do not care and they are good at denying you compensation. Those agents are not living your life . They are reasing evidence from your files. Every person knows what disabilities they are experiencing and how bad the affects are.

  8. Paul T. Benethum says:

    Next month my claim will be 2 years old. I hope that even though I believe it won’t help me, I hope this helps other vets out and decreases their wait time.

  9. Homer Yates says:

    So what, after you get all this information you people will set on it for years. I have been waiting for over 680 days and still waiting for you to get off your behind and make a decision on my claim. I read from your own site the average is like 279 days or so. I know you have all my info from the VA, been going there for 20 years, the info from my heart doctor and the hospital records from my stay and operation on my heart disease. Plus my C&P exam from last August. What are you people telling us?? You are just blowing smoke up our ass, waiting for us Vets to die.

  10. Rick says:

    Don’t see how this helps the guys with claims in 2plus yrs? We wait they send you to comp Dr basicly what he says goes don’t really look at all your records. I know this only because after my third surgery on service connected injury they dont go by what you say or can’t do only what Dr. says so it could save time because comp Dr’s don’t do you justice..

  11. Robert Bosma says:

    I am a Vietnam vet with PTSD and hearing loss. A claim to correct my effective date of disability has been in the “Claim Received” status for 13 months.
    While I have found my health care to be efficient, caring, and thorough, having a claim sit in the St. Louis Regional Office for over a year that has not even been reviewed seems like sloppy processing.
    All claim files should be reviewed for completeness within 90 days, with a notice to the veteran of the findings of that initial quick review.

    Waiting patiently in Missouri,

    Bob Bosma

    • Shane says:

      Going on 22 months for the same issue. Was told it would take only 10 working days to correct “clerical error”. LOL! Waiting 18 months for increase claim. Feel crippled. Hang in there!

  12. Juan says:

    I’m disable by SSA and VA requesting SSA records but according to VA can take months to get the records from SSA, why is taking months when they suppose to be electronically?

    • Samantha@VA says:

      Juan — We have new agreements with both SSA and IRS and are now receiving data weekly, instead of once a year. As you point out, this will help us gather essential claims data much more quickly.

      • Juan says:

        Thank You Sam for the respond but with all respect I believe that someone is taking long time to respond the request from VA to the SSA, and its ashame and depressive know that some individuals with no injury, no illness, no pain and no suffering applying for benefits, grants from the VA are approved probably in less than two months and We have to beg for what we earn and deserve for over ten years its ashame that happen to US!

  13. Sandra Hietala says:

    I went through the MEB/PEB IDES and waited for over 2 1/2 years for a proposed rating. The VA proposed 80% and I was retired from the Army at 60% on Dec 27, 2012. I was told at the time of my retirement that I should start receiving my VA Compensation payments with in 90 days of retirement since all that was left to do was the Final Rating Letter. I keep sending inquiries to the Seattle Regional Office where my file is and have yet to get a response except one, when the gentleman had said my case has not even been looked at since August of 2012. The “New “system was supposed to be faster and it was supposed to streamline the process. I feel as though I was blatantly lied to. The VA has my DD214, I was given a proposed rating so someone want to tell me WHAT the hold up is??? I can not live on $ 1370 a month when our mortgage is more than that.

  14. Don Allen says:

    But what happens when information is incorrect?

    • lou says:

      I ‘ve been waiting over six years. but the the va say’s when turn 65 years old I can ask them to move my claim up. ain’t that great.

  15. TinyTim says:

    I was disabled from SSA and VA total from SSA 100% total from VA 20% but the doctors say i will never work again about 50% of my disability was service related but i can only get 20% from the VA and i have appealed my claims once again now its been in waiting for almost 2 yrs and was told there would be no retro because of the length of time in waiting please any advice will be greatly honored thanks…

  16. Alex says:

    I believe if you working ask a temporary in the VA for a contract one year, then is a opening jobs inside of the VA they said to me the only personnel is qualify is the permanent employs. We shut have the right to participate in that hiring position.
    Please change the rule o there is any law regarding about my issue.
    I am veteran and I have a BBA in Health Management.

  17. Hi Samantha, Thanks for the article – I found it informative and great to hear. It seems there’s a bad link in the article though – the link in the 3rd paragraph to DBQ’s (http://vaww.blog.va.gov/heyvba/243/vba-releases-68-additional-dbqs-to-the-public/) could not be found. Maybe the page was moved? Here’s the current link to the DBQ landing page: http://benefits.va.gov/TRANSFORMATION/disabilityexams/index.asp

  18. well all i can say ladies and gentlemen,atleast i know im not alone.I am a cold-war vet,85-88 in bavaria germany,froze my buns off in the woods,on the eastern germany boarders and the berlin wall..since 2010 i joined the circus,since 1985 i lived with the pain!!!mentally and physically..i finally got a good doctor from the ukrain go figure,but waco is a special child with nothing to lose.their cookie jar over runneth..we are not alone,,one day those of us still waiting will have to march together..as one unit they have us devided its war in the claim game!!!!sincerelly YC McKinney,,us.army,cold war,post vietnam veteran,,stay the course!!!