Representatives of veterans groups are warning that the Department of Veterans Affairs’ plans for going paperless does not adequately address how the department will transfer mountains of records into digital form.
The transformation is key to the VA’s efforts to combat a backlog of disability claims filed by veterans that has reached over 900,000.
“What is deeply troubling is that the scanning is so obviously a key component and there has been little to no public indication from VA about the road forward,” Richard Dumancas, deputy director for claims for the American Legion, told a hearing Tuesday before the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee’s Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.
Dumancas said with the growing backlog of claims needing to the scanned, the veterans group is concerned about “the size and nature of future log jams building up which could devastate the process for veterans in the future.”
But representatives of the VA and Department of Defense expressed confidence in the technologies being used by the department.
Alan Bozeman, director of the Veterans Benefits Management System program office, told the subcommittee that the VA executed contracts this summer with two contractors who will create electronic folders for veterans with images and data extracted from paper and other sources.
“While much focus is placed on scanning, a scanned document is not necessarily optimal for claims processing,” Bozeman said. “VA is leveraging technology to ensure that the specific information needed to process claims can be identified, extracted and quickly utilized by claims processors.” ,
The Pentagon “is committed to a future that eliminates paper-based record keeping and the warehouses that support them, said Jim Neighbors, director of the DoD/VA Collaboration Office for the Department of Defense.
The challenges facing the departments in the transformation are “daunting,” noted Rep. Jon Runyan, (R-N.J.,) the chairman of the disability subcommittee.
“Often, a single record or notation can be the difference in whether a veterans disability claim is granted or denied,” Runyan said. “This is why we must work together to ensure that no records are lost, overlooked or otherwise unable to be associated with an individual disability claim.”