GAO Recommends Better Planning to Finish Veterans Benefits Management System Implementation
Published: September 23, 2015
Although the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) has been deployed at all VA regional offices and helped drive the claims backlog below 100,000 claims, promised capabilities have yet to be implemented, according to a recent GAO report.
VBMS, managed and deployed by the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA), began implementation to computerize and automate veterans’ claims processing in 2009. Prior to the new system, VA employees would have to search through veterans’ files, which in some cases were up to 4’ thick. The time consuming manual process led to the claims backlog which peaked at 611,000 disability compensation and pension claims in March 2013.
Today, VBMS is used in 148 VA facilities and in FY 2014 VA paid about $58 billion in disability compensation and about $5 billion in pension claims.
VBMS is the backbone of VA’s Benefits 21st Century Paperless Delivery of Veterans Benefits IT investment with an estimated total budget of $145 million in FY 2015. VA’s FY 2016 IT budget requests an 81% increase in VBMS funding to $259 million for continued development and implementation of VBMS.
GAO was asked to assess VA’s progress toward completing development and implementation of VBMS, which was originally slated for FY 2015, and to measure user satisfaction with the system. GAO found that full implementation of VBMS has not yet been completed. Automation of the process for a veteran to request increased benefits, and pension and appeals processing capabilities have not been incorporated in the system to date.
GAO suggested that VA establish a plan with goals for completing VBMS and achieving the additional capabilities. GAO also recommended that VA focus increased management attention on the areas of cost estimating, system availability, and system defects.
VA generally concurred with GAO’s recommendations.