VA, USDS Launch New Tool for Veterans

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is focused on modernizing its aging technology infrastructure. From overhauling its electronic health records system to moving to the cloud, the VA has been busy.

The improved user interface helps veterans make informed decisions about their appeal. (Image: VA)

One area in need of overhaul? The benefits appeals process. In theory, the process is fairly simple. Veterans apply for benefits and the VA makes its decision. But in actuality, it’s a bit more complicated. Frequently, veterans have to appeal the VA’s decision to get the benefits they feel they deserve. And with roughly 460,000 pending appeals on the VA’s to-do list, the process isn’t quick or easy.

VA, in partnership with the USDS, developed a new online tool to streamline the appeals process. The appeals status tracker focuses on increasing transparency, as well as deploying a user interface that is easy to use and allows Veterans to make informed decisions.

In designing the tool, the VA held focus groups with veterans who were familiar with the VA’s previous appeals process. The appeals status tracker now answers three questions the VA heard consistently during focus groups:

  • What’s happening with my appeal and what happens next?
  • What do I need to do?
  • How long will my case take?

Veterans dealing with a compensation appeal can now view their past and current appeals issues. To improve speed and make sure veterans are clearly aware of their responsibilities, veterans can now receive alerts for deadlines when action is required, preview the next events in their timeline, and see estimates of how long it will take to reach those events.

The new appeals tool provides veterans with alerts and prompts users on what actions they need to take for their appeal to go through. (Image: VA)

Both the VA and USDS plan to roll out additional improvements in the coming months, including connecting claims and appeals information so that Veterans can see their whole story from the original claim through to the appeal decision. The new appeals status tracker also includes improvements to underlying VA data that will support future implementations of the Veterans Appeals Improvement & Modernization Act.

The VA has a long road ahead of it to achieve all of its modernization goals. But, every great journey begins with the first step. For veterans, streamlining and modernizing the appeals process looks like a step in the right direction.

  1. Anonymous | - Reply
    This statement about cases being advance in the docket on account of age being more than 75 or being to ill or the veteran on serious financial problem does not hold any value with the Veterans Board of Appeals. My cases was remanded by the Veterans Court of Appeals on January 30, 2017 to the Veterans Board of Appeals and was subsequently approved to advance in the docket 6 months after applying for it. Do not believe that it is automatic on account of your age, and you still has to apply for it. According to the Board my case is so complicated that they had to remand it back to the original Regional office in San Diego Ca. It has been 1 year and 4 months without any resolution considering my claims are on an expedited status. I tried asking for help from the White House Hot Line, they can not provide any help but just give you the run around as to hard the personnel are working on your case. All this announcement are fake propaganda news and they do not care for you veterans.
  2. Anonymous | - Reply
    I recently lost my appeal at my VARO here in San Diego. There seemed to be confusion surrounding the decision they made regarding evidence that was omitted from the list on the DRO (Decision Review Officer) final decision, called the SOC (Statement of the Case). A doctor for hire, who created a report a IMO (Independent Medical Opinion) on my behalf addressing my issues ended up not making the list of evidence. Which only took the VARO 21 months to get to round to. But there's more to consider. All veterans also known as appellates are receiving RAMP letters which are invitations to take part in a new program to expedite the processsing of a curtain type of appeals and in a particular phase/stage of those processes. It's something to think about but the reason I mention it hear is due to the fact that we have a carrot & the stick going on. Example: you have waiting for a decision from the VBA (Veterans Benefits Administration) a long time has passed. Then a decision comes down that's not favorable to you. Your choice is to appeal or forget the whole thing. But now you are getting caught up in a new proposal, a new out. Between now till February, 2019 the VBA wants and needs those appellates with the longest wait times to jump ship on the standard process and get into this new RAMP process. According to the House committee on Veterans affairs in D.C. 31, January the future method of processing veterans claims around the country at all 56 VARO needs a sample percentage of 10% of all current appeals waiting to be processed by this new method. Today, RAMP participation is likely at 3.5-4% so this is where the stick comes in. You've lost your appeal so why wait additional months & possibly years when you can get into this 2 lane RAMP program and get a faster more complete decision. 25 to 30,000 RAMP letters are being sent out every month for the rest of this year. But lots of vets don't have faith in the appeals system. So it's a wait and see situation. President Trump signed into law the Veterans Appeals Improvement & Modernization Act in August, 2017. This Act takes full force in February, 2019. This RAMP is a precursor to how the VBA will process those future appeals. VBA needs that 10% sampling before 2019 so the numbers will support this new way of doing business. The decision is yours to make. Make a good one. Personally I think in order to get those RAMP participant numbers up to the 10% mark. VBA is denying appeals like mine on purpose. I got a denial recently (the stick), than I receive this RAMP letter giving me the option to a quick decision (the carrot). Go figure, it's no coincidence. It's by design. I'm just a number, but I'm also in line, a long line before the "Board" waiting, waiting & waiting.
  3. Anonymous | - Reply
    Isn't it a good thing Veterans didn't take the same time line for answering the call and defending our country? Wars don't wait and neither should we. Can you imagine the enemy waiting to attack until we get thru the appeals process? Do I hear laughter? Its called decision and answering the call... doing what needs to be done just like when we reported!
  4. Anonymous | - Reply
    I returned my Opt in letter back in Feb and i am still not under the RAMP. What a slap in the face

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