VA taps Archives to scan paper disability claims

The deal supports the department's efforts to reduce its enormous claims backlog.

The Veterans Affairs Department has reached an agreement with the National Archives and Records Administration to help it scan disability claims into its electronic Veterans Benefits Management System, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker told reporters today.

VA will roll out a paperless Veterans Benefit Management System at 16 regional offices by September and install it in all 56 regional offices in 2013, but Baker said VA still has to wrestle with paper claims that number in the billions of pages. NARA has high quality scanning systems that will help the department tackle the workload. He did not say how long this process would take, only that it would be "a long time."

VA will scan paper claims only to update current claims, Baker said.

Jeffrey Hall, assistant national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, told members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that "Until all legacy claims are converted to digital data files, VBA could be forced to continue paper processing for decades."

VA has a backlog of 897,566 disability claims with more than 65 percent pending for more than 125 day. Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Eric Shinseki has vowed to eliminate that backlog by 2015.

Baker said VBMS will solve the backlog problem, and said it an example of why information technology systems should be viewed as an investment to improve service to veterans, not an expense.