Earlier this month, Dr. Steven Poe received a “challenge coin” for his leadership in the Compensation and Pension Program (C&P) from VA Deputy Secretary Sloan D. Gibson. As grateful as he was for the gesture, Dr. Poe knows the best evidence of his program’s success is the Veterans it has helped.
He and his team of dedicated employees at the Bay Pines VA Health Care System proudly point to a letter from a Veteran, crediting the office’s Fully Developed Claim Pilot Program—implemented in 2013—with turning his life around.
“I stayed downtown because twice a day on weekdays I could get a free meal.” the Veteran wrote. “In order to eat on weekends, I had to depend on the transportation money I received from the VA of $4.50 a day.”
He went on to relate how the Disabled American Veterans convinced him to file an application with the pilot program and how an employee scheduled him for a C&P examination the following week. Within six weeks his disability rating was raised from 30 percent to 100 percent, permanent and total. As a result, his life has improved dramatically.
“Today I have my own apartment and I have a stable income,” the Veteran wrote. “I owe all of this to the Fully Developed Claim Pilot Program.”
Dr. Poe and his staff collaborated with the Veterans Benefits Administration’s St. Petersburg Regional Office and local veterans service organizations (VSOs) to set up a Fully Developed Claims (FDC) office on the medical center campus. The team also worked to ensure that veterans service representatives knew how to assist Veterans in speeding up the claims process.
This enables educated Veterans to bring any evidence they have directly to the medical center, where VBA representatives will review their claims to determine if they are eligible to participate in the FDC program. Eligible Veterans are the referred directly to the nearby C&P clinic, which scheduled their examinations for the next available appointment—sometimes on the same day.
On average, the Veterans who participate in this program have their disability examination completed, on average, in five days or less. These Veterans, on average, receive a disability rating in less than 48 days, compared to the national average of almost 200 days. Moreover, these exams have consistently been determined by VBA to be almost 100 percent accurate upon submission.
“This is why we do what we do!” said Dr. Poe. “It’s an awesome feeling to know that what we do each day to help Veterans truly makes a difference. We try to keep this story in mind, each and every time we interact with a Veteran, because one appointment really can change a life.”
More information on the Bay Pines C&P department’s collaboration with the St. Petersburg VA Regional Office in the medical center’s annual report on page 6/13. The article is titled “Speeding up the disability claims process.”
Dan Bruneau is managing editor for CommSite, VHA’s intranet site for public affairs officers and communicators in VHA. During a 19-year VA career, he previously served as director of communications management in the VHA office of communications and director of communications for the office of research and development. Earlier in his career, he spent 14 years as a newspaper reporter and editor in Wisconsin and North Carolina.