Renford Patch has the kind of resume that would dazzle any employer. The disability claims reviewer at the Veterans Benefits Administration regional office in Phoenix, Ariz., majored in Chinese and minored in chemistry as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City. He's now pursuing a law degree.
Despite his heavy schedule, Patch still found the time to exercise his computer programming skills and last year developed a hearing test calculator to automate the steps for determining compensation owed for varying degrees of hearing loss. Mike Walcoff, VA's acting undersecretary for benefits, told a media roundtable that the hearing loss calculator Patch developed works so well that VBA has rolled it out for use system-wide.
Patch said the hearing calculator, which he wrote in Visual Basic code, analyzes audio metric data from a hearing test and then determines whether a veteran has a hearing loss, the extent of the loss in terms of decibels, and the level of disability. The calculator then generates a narrative text file, citing relevant regulations for payment.
Patch said the calculator simplifies and automates a complex paper process. After a trial run in Phoenix last summer, VBA deployed it for use by claims examiners throughput the agency in September.
Walcoff said besides speeding claims processing, the hearing calculator also eliminates errors. VA chief of staff John Gingrich said the calculator has 100 percent accuracy.
Walcoff added he believed VBA could adapt the calculator to expedite claims processing for nine other medical conditions, which he did not specify.