On January 31, 2019, Dr. Paul R. Lawrence, Veterans Administration (VA) Under Secretary for Benefits, held a Progress and Results Webcast. The presentation reviewed the VA’s progress on improving benefits access to all Veterans during the first quarter of fiscal year 2019. Dr. Lawrence detailed his three strategic objectives: 1. Providing benefits with excellent customer service; 2. Fiscal stewardship; and 3. Strong collaboration. In addition to showing how the VA is working towards those objectives, he and his team provided updates on two important issues – appeals modernization and the Forever GI Bill.
For appeals modernization, the VA received additional funding for appeals from Congress and will have over 2000 employees processing claims this year to include over 600 new employees working at two new decision review operations centers. Once the new appeals process begins on February 19, 2019, the new goal for completing appeals will be 125 days. More information on the new appeals process can be found at https://benefits.va.gov/benefits/appeals.asp.
The Forever GI Bill update included an explanation as to why education benefits claims had been delayed last year. The longer wait times for the fall 2018 enrollment season were a result of VA having to process all fall enrollments in a compressed timeframe because of the IT challenges associated with implementing the Forever GI Bill program. Charmain Bogue, leader of the VA Benefits Education Team stated that “We regret that these delays caused any inconvenience, and I’m happy to report that we’re over the hump, and that timeliness continues to improve.” Veterans who have issues or concerns with their educational benefits can call 1-888-GI-BILL1 for more information and assistance.
A recording and transcript of the webcast are located at: https://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/stakeholder.asp.