(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees, (AFGE) testified today on the need for increased employee training at the Veterans Benefits Administration, (VBA). The VBA, which has been inundated with benefits claims from service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, is facing a monumental challenge to deliver services in a timely manner because of a lack of resources and training. As the labor organization that represents the vast majority of VBA employees, AFGE has a unique ability to offer employee insights that can benefit the processing system.
“The employees of the VBA have to master a maze of new policies and regulations that govern records management. In order to process these claims expeditiously and correctly it is essential that new and current employees receive regularly scheduled training,” said Geneva Moore, an AFGE member at the VBA regional office in Winston-Salem, N.C., who testified today before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
In testimony, AFGE offered the VBA with solutions to further educate employees on how to more effectively manage the processing of veterans benefits claims. According to AFGE, the VBA can reduce the amount of time it takes to process a veterans’ claim by first consulting with frontline employees. Where consultation has been implemented as part of the process, it has produced relatively simple, but impactful changes on how employees process claims; such as the use of cover sheets and page stamps to maintain the integrity of the file through the claims the process.
AFGE also recommended that the VBA reemphasize the use of joint-labor management teams to produce a more effective training program and reduce duplicative efforts. In her testimony, Moore said, “Our members report that management officers require employees to spend time unnecessarily going through certain procedures when an employee is already in compliance.” This repetition proves costly in terms of time lost in the processing of a claim and in the financial cost of man hours spent.
AFGE also advocated for an electronic file system to eliminate misplaced files and further delays. While an electronic system may be a long term project, AFGE offered a short term solution. In the short term, AFGE has suggested that a simple automated remainder system would enable VBA to keep better track of files. Any electronic system would also enable treating physicians at VA medical facilities greater accessibility to a patients files.
“The ability of veterans to receive their claims in a timelier manner is inextricably tied to the level of training received by claims processors,” said Moore “In the face of these daunting challenges, what we really need is consensus. AFGE is absolutely committed to working with lawmakers and the VBA to ensure that veterans receive their deserved benefits in a timely manner.”