On Thursday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told lawmakers that technological advances will help VA ease its backlog of health benefit claims, Military News reports.
Shinseki spoke during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Military Construction and Veterans Subcommittee.
Claims on the Rise
Since 2008, the number of claims in VA's system has risen by 48%.
Officials expect the number of claims to keep rising, from 1.2 million in 2012 to about 1.25 million in 2013. Currently, VA is facing a backlog of about 850,000 unprocessed claims.
Paperless Processing System
According to Shinseki, a new digital processing system will help ease VA's claims backlog. VA plans to introduce the Veterans Benefits Management System later this year and have each of its regional offices working on the paperless system by the end of 2013.
As part of its fiscal year 2013 budget request, VA is seeking $92 million to help launch the paperless system.
Joint EHR Project
Shinseki also said a project to integrate the electronic health record systems of VA and the Department of Defense will help improve the claims processing system.
For its FY 2013 budget, VA is seeking $169 million to launch the joint, integrated EHR system, called iEHR.
Shinseki said, "When DoD and VA health care providers begin accessing a common set of health records, iEHR will enhance quality, safety and accessibility of health care" (Hoffman, Military News, 3/15).