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Pilot program shows promise in trimming VA backlog

For some veterans, in-person medical examinations may be a thing of the past due to a new Department of Veterans Affairs initiative known as the Acceptable Clinical Evidence program. The program’s goal is to shorten the time it takes to process a disability compensation claim.

A joint venture started on Jan. 31 between the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration, ACE will “provide a veteran-centric approach for disability examination,” according to a Department of Veterans Affairs press release. The ACE initiative is part of a five-year effort by the VA to eliminate the current claims backlog and process all claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy by 2015.

The ACE program “opens the possibility of doing assessments without an in-person examination when there is sufficient information in the record,” according to the release.

First, a Veterans Affairs medical provider completes a disability questionnaire by reviewing existing medical evidence. The evidence is then supplemented with information obtained during a telephone interview with the veteran. The process is designed in the hopes of eliminating the requirement for veterans to travel to a medical facility for examination.

If the ACE process is used, the VA said “this would then expedite the determination of disability ratings in turn eliminating the wait time to schedule and conduct an exam from the claims process.”

The VA recently conducted a 15-month pilot test at one regional claims processing office and officials noted that 38 percent of claims submitted were eligible for the ACE program.

thomas.brennan@jdnews.com

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