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AFGE Local 520 US House and Senate Committees 09-22-13

AFGE Local 520 US House and Senate Committees 09-22-13

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AFGE Letter to Congress 09 22 2013
AFGE Letter to Congress 09 22 2013

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VA
Regional
Office
AFGE
LOCAL
520PO
BOX 1778COLUMBIA, SC 29202September 22, 2013Chairmen, Ranking Members, Members of the US House and Senate Committees of Veterans
Affairs
Dear Committee
Members:
Local 520, the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit of VARO Columbia, SC, wants to
address
the forgotten 40+ transformation initiatives to improve the claims
process.
Please
refer
to the USB
Rickey's
testimony on June 19, 2012, at 02:49:00
HVAC
webcast hearing on
Reclaiming
the
Process: Examining
the VBA
Claims
Transformation
Plan
as aMeansto
Effectively
Service
our
Veterans
for
details regarding
the
transformation.Here
is
what VA have implemented
so
far,
The New
Challenge Training Course,
The
Disability
Benefit
Questionnaires (DBQs), Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE),TheSpecialized Lanes,Cross-Functional Teams, Rating Calculators and Evaluation
Builders,
Simplified NotificationLetters (SNL), Contracting Out of Claims Development to a Xerox subsidiary
Affiliated
Computer Services (ACS), Quality Review Teams (QRT), New Performance Standards, FullyDevelopment Claimstoincludenewforms that include 5103 Notice, Fast Trackof NewAgentOrange Presumptions Claims, Issue based quality reviews, the resurrection of the
Fully
Developed Claims,
E-benefits,
a
form
for NODs and last but not least the savior - The Veterans
Benefit
Management System (VBMS).
The
Congress
asked for a plan on June
19,
2012, and there was none. Another request was made
on
July18,2012,and theexcuse that
VA
usedfor notpresentingtheplanwasthatthebudgetnumbers
had to be
removed
from
it
before
it
could
be
released. There
was a
third request
on
September20,2012.OnJanuary25,2013,VApublisheda 20pageVAStrategic PlantoEliminate the Claims Backlog.TheGAO testified before the
Senate
VA
Committee and
said,
"We have noted that
VA's
ongoing
efforts
should be driven by a robust, comprehensive plan; however when we reviewedVBA's plan documents,
we
found
that they
fell
short
of
established criteria
for
sound planning.Specifically,
VBA
provided
us
with several
documents, including
a
PowerPoint presentation
and
a matrix that provided
a
high-level overview
of
over
40
initiatives, but,
at the
time
of our
review,couldnotprovideuswitharobust plan that tied togetherthegroupof
initiatives,
their inter-relationships, and subsequent impact on claims and appeals processing
times."
GAO-13-453T,
Mar 13,
2013
The
bottom line
is the
transformation plan
was
several documents
and a
power pointpresentation.
 
How
effective
have these transformation initiatives been and how have they contributed to the
VBA
progress? How does this line up with the
USB's
testimony on June
19,
2012?
The
Veterans Benefit Management System (VBMS) -
On June 12, 2013, Mr. Thomas
Murphy,
Director, Compensation Services gave this testimony to the US Senate VA Committee,"There
is no
single system that
is
going
to
come
in
that will
be a
silver bullet
-
VBMS
and
make
everything
work. VBMS
if
left
alone without other change will just make
a bad
system
worst...."
Pending
Benefits
Legislation,
US
Senate
Veterans
Affairs
Committee
SR-418,
June
12,
2013
i
Simplified
Notification Letters
(SNL)
was
implemented
on
March
12,2012.
-
SNL
shifted
the
workload
from
Rating Veterans Service Representative (RVSR)
to
Veterans ServiceRepresentatives (VSR). A VSR who did not prepare the rating was charged with transcribingcodes
andnarrativesin a
notification
letter.
The VFW
testified that
after
itraised
seriousconcerns about SNL, and
after
VBA took action to address the issue there was 50 to 60% errorrateinApriland May 2012 of theclaims they reviewed.Moreover, the Atlanta VARO piloted the SNL in June2011.At that time, their claims inventory
was
32,941.
As of
July
23,
2012 their
claims
inventory
was
32,415
(less
than
2%
decrease).
A
far
cry
from
the
15%
claimed
at the
hearing
by the USB on
June 19,
2012. Her
statementregarding
SNL
said,
"Design-Team testing
of this
initiative
at theAtlantaand St.
Paul Regional
Office
resulted
in productivity
increases
of 15
percent,
whilesustaining
accuracy
rates,
and reductions of 14
days
in
average processing
time."
HVAC
Hearing,
Reclaiming
the
Process: Examining
the VBA
Claims
Transformation
Plan
as a Means to
Effectively
Service
our
Veterans.
The time wasted on training and implementation of the SNL only set the claims processing back.
It
does not exist today.
The
New
Challenge Training Course
-The RVSR position
is too
complex
to be
grasped
in 8
weeks
of
training
and the
curriculum that
is
scheduled
to be followed
after
returning
to the
VARO
isalways pre-empted becauseofproduction quotas.
The
Specialized Lanes
-
This
is not a new
concept.
If the
veterans
are
claiming moredisabilities per claim, then the express lane will
quickly
dry up. Furthermore, employees on thespecial operation lanes will quickly burn out. There
is
also
the
issue
of who
will
be
assigned
to
each lane
and how
will inexperienced employees receive
the
necessary training
to
become
proficient
in their jobs. Specialization has
failed
the VSR for the past decade of the
CPI
model.
Cross Functional Teams
-
This concept
did not
work under Business Processing Reengineering
(BPR)
and it is not working now. The reason it did not work under BPR was because of thenumerous amount
of
tasks
required
to be
accomplished
by one
employee.
 
Quality
Review Teams (QRT)
-
Locally, there
is a
problem when errors that
are
called
are
overruled
based on a manager's preference and on
VA
regulations and directives. Furthermore,
the
National STAR
team uses
a
different
criterion
to
call errors nationally than
the QRT
useslocally. The change to issue based quality
reviews
and the National
criteria
for reviewing claims
only
serves to boost VBA quality numbers.
New
Performance Standards
-
There
has
never been
a
time
and
motion study completed
in
VBA.If
quality
is
measured
by
each issue
of a
claim
why is
production
not and is
still measured
by
each
individual claim? At the hearing on June 19,
2012,
Rep
Michuad,
now ranking minoritymember,
asked
whether quality
and
production were measured
the
same.
The
answer
is no. The
reasons
are
obvious
- 98%
quality
by
2015
and to
disadvantage employees when
it
comes
to
production.
/
Rating Calculators
and
Evaluation Builders
continue to provide inaccurate
information
andwork
arounds
are becoming normal and time consuming. What employee can keep up with allthechanges?
The
Disability Benefit Questionnaires
was
implemented
in
earnest
on
March
16,
2012.
It
was
audited
by the IG for
private providers
and the
internal control process
was
been
found
to be
inadequate. Furthermore,
the
DBQs
can
exceed
100
pages
as VBA
moves
to a
paperlessenvironment, and they have created more inadequate examinations because of their voluminouscontent.The VBA wassupposedto fix theprogramtoeliminate none essential information,butstill has not. Furthermore, why are Veterans paying for examinations? How many Veterans use
the
private provider's DBQ? Our experience shows that the volume of private providers' DBQ
is too
small
to
make
a
difference.
Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE)wasimplementedonOctober
3,2012.
"VBA
and VHA
have collaborated to implement the Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) program. Under ACE,
VHA
clinicians complete a DBQ by reviewing existing paper and/or electronic medical evidence
and
can supplement it with information obtained during a telephone interview with the Veteran.This alleviatestheneedfor theVeterantoreportto anin-person examination.The ACEprocess
is
not available for use by non-VHA Compensation and Pension (C&P) examiners, such as QTC,because those individuals do not have electronic
access
to VHA treatment
records."
Fast
Letter
12-22
Contracting
Out of
Claims Development
to a
Xerox subsidiary
Affiliated
Computer
Services
(ACS)
-
"VBMAP
is a
professional
services contract
with
ACS
Federal Solution
LLC
(ACS),toaddresstheclaims backlogandadvancetheVeterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Transformation
Vision. In conjunction with the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS)
and
Veterans Relationship Management (VRM), VBMAP will help jump-start the move of theclaims application process
from
a paper-based model to a paperless one." Fast Letter
12-12
On March
21,
2012
the
HVAC
via a
letter
to the USB
Hickey requested
a
response
to
questionsraised at the February
15,
2012 budget hearing regarding this matter. However, this initiative is

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