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Veterans’ Benefits Claims Processing – It’s Time to Move Beyond Basics

How Can States Provide Customer-centric Support Over a Lifetime?

Stephanie Kuhnel's avatar

By: Stephanie Kuhnel

November 8, 2017 | Veterans BenefitsHealthcare and BenefitsCase Management/BPM

Veterans Day will be observed on Friday, November 10 this year, since the official holiday falls on a Saturday. The exact date isn’t important. What matters is the reminder that U.S. veterans deserve to be recognized for their service every day of the year.

A related group also deserves year-round praise: the many state, local, public, and private organizations that support our veterans. While activities at the federal level (the VA) are often in the news, the majority of services for veterans and their families are coordinated at the state and local level. State departments of veterans affairs (SDVAs) work closely with County Veterans Service Offices (CVSOs), which in turn may coordinate services among thousands of public and private veterans service organizations (such as Amvets, VFW, and the American Legion). Each of these organizations is largely staffed by veterans themselves.

Twin Peaks of Demand

According to the Census Bureau, there are 18.6 million American veterans of military service.i For serving their country, these men and women are eligible to receive many benefits over their lifetime, but individual demand for services peaks twice: immediately following discharge and around middle age. The transition to civilian life for any veteran is a big adjustment. Many people successfully readjust with few difficulties, but others need help finding affordable housing, securing employment, or continuing their education. For a subset of vets, the challenges may be greater still, as they may experience relationship and legal troubles, substance abuse, or even homelessness.

The next spike in demand for services occurs later in veterans’ lives, when knee, back, and other medical problems kick in. While less publicized, these expenditures add up. Today approximately half of veterans are 65 and older.  Between 2009 and 2014, as Vietnam veterans began entering their 50s and 60s, the number of VA claims processed jumped 43%, from 980,000 in 2009 to 1.4 million in 2014.ii

SDVAs – Helping Cast a Wider Safety Net

Then there are the many veterans who need ongoing help but in the absence of adequate outreach resources too often slip through the cracks. Veterans with mental or physical disabilities — including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain — are disproportionately at risk of homelessness and suicide: 

  • Although veterans represent only 9 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 18 percent of the nation's suicides.iii
  • Veterans comprise 11 percent of the nation’s homeless population — nearly 50,000 people, half of whom are Vietnam vets.iv

This is where properly equipped SDVAs come in. At a minimum, SDVAs help ensure veterans gain access to all the VA benefits that they qualify for and need. Staff members may help individuals gather the necessary support documentation to support their claims, file them, and navigate the appeal process when a claim is denied. 

In recent years, however, many SDVAs have seen their state mandates increase. They may be expected to step up efforts to identify veterans in need, monitor customer satisfaction through surveys, secure grants, and report their activities to the governor or legislature. They may also have to consolidate and report on the activities of affiliated CVSOs, which are reaching out to veterans at the local level and connecting them to myriad additional services provided by both public and private organizations. Even in states without expanding mandates, SDVAs play a key role in the VA’s current efforts to add “boots on the ground” by partnering with local veteran organizations.v

Beyond Claims Processing

Historically, SDVAs have gotten by with a basic claims processing system interfaced to the VA, supplemented by spreadsheets and a lot of cutting and pasting to piece together reports, not to mention emailing between agencies. But as reporting requirements increase and more and more services aren’t tied to a federal claim, making do doesn’t cut it. They need a system that can both process claims and track and report on all activity tied to each individual veteran, whether it involves VA benefits, a state program, or a nonprofit organization. To increase customer satisfaction, agencies can provide a self-service portal where veterans and their powers of attorney can check the status of multiple benefits or upload necessary documentation, day or night. In doing so, they also free up staff to be in front of actual veterans instead of the keyboard.

The New York State Division of Veterans Affairs typifies the evolving role of the SDVA. Earlier this year, the agency selected MicroPact’s entellitrak-based Veterans’ Benefits Solution to help ensure veterans and their families receive all the assistance they need from a broad spectrum of state, local, and private organizations. In addition to processing VA claims, the web-based system can manage non-federal benefits such as annuities for blind veterans and Gold Star parents, down payment and mortgage assistance, property tax exemptions, scholarships, burial allowances, and more. 

All Gave Some —Some Gave All

To all U.S. veterans and your families: today and every day, thank you for your service. To those of you who work for a state or local veterans’ organization, thank you for your dedication to our veterans. Please contact me to learn more about MicroPact’s Veterans Benefits Solution.

About the Author

Stephanie Kuhnel has over twenty years of executive leadership experience across multiple sectors, including public sector, technology, consumer goods, government, law enforcement, and education. In her current position she drives the strategic direction and fosters business development opportunities for MicroPact’s health, human services, and benefits portfolio. Stephanie has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MBA from Meredith College.

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

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