VFW Washington Weekly – February 1, 2008

In This Issue:

1. House VA Committee Hearings
2. President Signs Defense Bill
3. Veterans Small Business Bill Passes

1. House VA Committee Hearings: Two House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee hearings were held this week on healthcare practices and the VA claims processing system.

• The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations looked into quality of healthcare practices and patient care within the Veterans Health Administration. The hearing was held in response to the recent tragedies reported at the Marion VA Medical Center. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), who represents the southern Illinois district that includes Marion, testified that problems such as quality management, the credentialing process, the privileging process, and a lack of leadership by senior staff existed at the medical center, and may extend throughout VHA. Other witnesses testified that there was a critical need for a substantial revamping of the credentialing and privileging processes, as well as other institutional changes within VHA to assure quality healthcare.
• The second hearing, entitled "The Use of Artificial Intelligence to Improve the VA Claims Processing System," was held by the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Witnesses provided pros and cons to using AI to improve the claims processing system. Replacing the human factor with AI and the level of complexity to implement a new system within the Veterans Benefits Administration were just some of the concerns. Others believe that AI has the potential to significantly increase speed and accuracy during the first stages of the claims process. As of Jan. 25, 2008, there were 882,133 claims in the VBA backlog, a number that consists of 650,524 compensation and pension claims, 165,687 claims on appeal, 65,922 education claims. The backlog is more than 11,000 claims higher than the same time period a year ago.

For more on both hearings and to read witness testimony, visit the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov/

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