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Don’t Automate Everything for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (At Least Not Yet)

Lynn Born's avatar

By: Lynn Born

March 13, 2019 | Healthcare and Benefits

There are approximately 1,000 professional vocational rehabilitation counselors and 350 administrative staff employed by the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment agency (VBA VR&E). If you’re one of them, working at one of the 350 regional offices across the country, then you know exactly how big a challenge it is to support veterans wherever they are. When you’re looking for a way to juggle administrative tasks with actually providing services, it may be tempting to look for a quick fix that automates everything at once. However, the wisest course may not be to solve all of your VR&E process issues at the same time. Instead, assess your priorities and take an incremental approach.

Decide Where to Begin

First, you have to take a hard look at all of the different areas where automation could help. The VR&E is responsible for so many things, including Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services; Educational/Vocational Counseling; the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program; and the Children of Vietnam Veterans and Other Veterans – with Spina Bifida. For all of these programs, there are steps involved in ingesting, establishing, and processing eligibility. This administrative burden takes away from the ability to actually deliver services. 

Consider which steps in the process are costing you or participants the most time and effort. Is it filing claims? Navigating a caregiver registry? Processing payment? Scheduling? Identify your pain points and start there with your automation project.  

Find a Flexible Solution

Whatever program you’ve decided to start with, you’ll need an automated solution. And even if you are automating only one project or program at a time, you should find a solution that will eventually expand to support all of your projects. Selecting separate systems for each type of program or service leads to data silos and inefficient processes. 

Here are some criteria you should look for when choosing a solution to automate processes:

  • Does it apply business rules to determine beneficiary eligibility?
  • Does it automate the intake and establishment of the case into the VR&E system?
  • Does it have the ability to calculate correct payment rates?
  • Does it have an analytics component to provide insight into the program?
  • Does it enable communication with vendors and veterans through both traditional and electronic channels? 

Leverage Your Successes

Once you’ve selected and implemented a solution to automate your administrative processes, you can start automating additional programs. You can apply the best practices you learn to make all of your programs run more easily. 

Taking a step-by-step approach will keep you from being overwhelmed, especially as the number of participants in the various programs continues to increase. In 2017, VR&E had 132,218 veterans who participated in a rehabilitation plan, and the number is growing as veterans are starting to access services at a younger age. Automation will allow you to serve them more efficiently, without wasting too much time on administrative tasks. 

Automating processes is the right choice for reducing the administrative burden—but you don’t have to do it all at once.

Are you ready to start automating your VR&E processes? The MicroPact Health, Human Services, and Benefits team is ready to talk.  

About the Author

Lynn Born has more than 20 years of experience leading software development teams, including 15 years overseeing development of modular case management systems for the public sector using agile methodologies. Areas of expertise include Social Security disability, Veteran Service Organizations, vocational rehabilitation, and Medicaid waiver programs. Lynn has a BS in computer science from Southeast Missouri State University and an MBA in information systems management from St. Louis University.

Tyler Technologies is the largest and most established provider of integrated software and technology services focused on the public sector

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