Accelerating mail intake, processing, and conversion for swift Veteran benefits delivery

abstract technology lines
abstract technology lines
The background

The VBA delivers compensation and pension benefits to nearly 5.2 million Veterans and their family members. In the last four years, VBA has added over 1,000,000 Veterans to its compensation rolls - comparable to the total of active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The speed for determining claims and disability ratings has a major impact on the Veteran’s wellbeing, and the rapid increase in claims filing created a substantial backlog, further delaying the claims review process and benefits delivery to our Nation’s Veterans.

The challenge

To ensure Veterans receive the compensation and pension benefits they’ve earned in an expedient fashion, VBA needed support in further streamlining its benefits claims process for Veterans and their families. Since a VBA Regional Office (RO) can, on average, complete the last three claim lifecycle phases in one day, the greatest streamlining opportunities were in the first two phases: mail intake and processing and evidence collection. Centralized mail processing requires the secure and efficient receipt, intake, control, and conversion of mail into standard indexed PDF images. VBA’s overall goals were to intake new mail via all channels the same day it arrives [six-hour turnaround time (6-hr. TAT)], streamline common, simple claims, improve the quality of submissions, and expedite the start of the claims review process. The first step in the claim lifecycle had to be as effective and efficient as possible, supporting VA’s goal of same-day claims processing. However, increased processing speed could not come at the expense of image scanning and indexing quality since rescan requests and difficulties due to erroneous tagging will delay downstream activities.

However, due in part to a 500% increase in claims submissions, balancing the need to increase both the speed of paper mail intake and quality proved challenging for prior contractors. The VBA needed a new contractor to take action and enable a consistently accelerating TAT across all mail types, allowing for prompt benefits delivery to Veterans without sacrificing quality or security. This required a contractor who could combine a mature, tailored management approach that supports a cross-trained workforce with advanced, modern technologies facilitating continuous increase of automation levels.

Our solution

To help VBA process mail with minimal downtime, deliver client-centered, personalized services and improve efficiency and cycle times of benefits processing, as the new prime vendor, GovCIO has focused on optimization opportunities and a three-fold approach to digitization and mail intake and processing:

  1. Employing a trained and ready staff with understanding of and experience in operational VBA claims intake and processing.
  2. Leveraging a set of robust processes and technologies (e.g., a Cloud-based upload factorycapable of supporting VBA’s current mail paper and electronic mail processing requirements, while meeting a 6-hr TAT goal.
  3. Incorporating additional equipment/technologies – (e.g., letter openers, established services like AWS, etc.) to automate and streamline business processes.

By combining a mature, tailored management approach that supports a cross-trained workforce with advanced, modern technologies facilitating continuous increase of automation levels, we have enabled a consistently accelerating TAT across all electronic mail types, from receipt through upload, allowing for prompt benefits delivery to Veterans without sacrificing quality or securityOur people, processes, and technology solutions have maximized productivity, with effort- and cost-savings- directed to additional improvement areas for the ideal Veteran experience. We support a volume of mail far exceeding any other vendor while consistently meeting VA quality metrics and 6-hour TAT requirements. Our performance has led the VA to naming us the sole vendor for all paper and electronic mail intake.

Our impact

Our impact on this effort was felt almost immediately. Since being brought on in June of 2020, GovCIO has:

  • Made significant mail intake and processing process improvements: To continuously process mail with minimal downtime, our team adjusted existing work processes, developing detailed process maps and associated business rules for end-to-end lifecycle management, analyzing each touchpoint, and identifying where automation would improve speeds and quality, reducing cycle times. 
  • Augmented the claims intake processes with a single robust, and efficient hybrid Cloud platform for all [electronic and paper] VBA claims: Our built-in orchestration layer and business rules engine has established automated, API-driven, intelligent bi-directional exchange of electronic and paper mail packets, under VBA’s Document Conversion Rules (DCR), with VBA’s Mail Automation Service (MAS), the Veteran’s VBMS eFolder, and our PMR Vendor.
  • Increased Image Processing: GovCIO now processes 6M IMAGES each month across 450 document types of electronic and paper mail.
  • Increased the TAT by 36X: Between February 2020 and December 2020 Team GovCIO decreased the TAT from 36.9 hours to 1.12 Hrs. As of December 2020, Team GCIO reached a TAT of 1.12 hours for the entire current volume of centralized mail including alternative media and approximately 15,000 Veteran packets a day.

 

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