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tv   House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing on VA Appeals Process  CSPAN  December 14, 2018 2:36am-4:21am EST

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modernization able of 2017. also called ama. i want to thank the ama requires the stoke certify that the department has the resources, personnel and procedures and information technology to carry out the new appeals system. while timely addressing both new and legacy appeals. the ama also provides the
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secretary with the authority to delay the effective date of the law if va is not fully prepared to implement appeals reform. since the secretary is responsible for certain identifying that the department is ready, i believe it's important for congress and the veteran community here from senior leadership on the status of the implementation. understanding miss mason has been delegated the authority to oversee implementation but your presence here today, mr. byrne, demonstrates the secretary's commitment to ensuring the program is implemented correctly and thank you all for being here. today i want to talk about the va's progress updating its i.t. system, publishing final implementing regulations and forms and completing training for employees, and appropriately allocating staff and resources which must be completed within the next two months. i was encouraged by the recent august and november updates to va's comprehensive plan which shows the steps -- which showed
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the steps va is taking to effective your haul the current appeals process. however i am uncertain that all componented needed for appeals reform will be complete on time. while we are all excited for appeals reform to roll out, it's also point for va to understand this committee does not wish for va to push out the new appeals system in february if it's not truly ready. that's one lesson we all learned from the forever g.i. bill implementation. one of my main concerns is whether the virginia's i.t. system will be fully fungal by february of 2019. the va needs robust i.t. systems capable of happening appeals under the ama. during the july appeals hearing, undersecretary for benefits, doctors lawrence, testified 100 of the i.t. functionality will be deliver and i want to know if the timeline is can cure. if the va appeals i.t. w not
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thebe ready i want to hear a contingency plan. turning to regulation, va planned to send omb the final regulation to approval by november 13, 2018. and like to know whether this has taken place. additionally i'm looking forward to an update from va about how it intends to effectively balance appeals under the new system and the legacy inven tier. right now vamp has almost 400,000 appeals pending. va anticipated the rapid appeals modernization program, or ramp, which allows veterans who have pending appeals to transfer to the new system would have reduce the back load, however ramp has had a 16% take rate from the legacy inventory. i i'd like to here how long it will take va and the board to decide all remaining legacy appeals, whether it be one, five, or ten years. i'm curious how the department
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has used the feedback its received from ramp's test adjustments and make judgments to the new system. i want to make sure that va is using ramp to inform the new system and not as a means to disguise the true size or appeals backlog. i also would like to hear about the training provided to employees. my staff visited the denver regional office in october some and the posteriorees shared the guidance on the system was confusing and needed additional training -- they needed additional training to understand the new procedures. i'm hoping to have a productive discussion today to ensure that when the law is fully implements all veterans will receive correct and timely decisions. again i want to thank the witnesseses for being here today to discuss this important matter. and just as an aside, i've spoken to several veterans who have opted into ramp program and when they do, the results have been good. i'll have to say i've been encouraged by that and if it is scalable, if we have the
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capacity to do it -- that's what we are here to hear from you today dish think it has a chance to be very successful. i can remember sitting right down there ten years ago, and there are -- were a million appeals claims backlog so their -- even though it doesn't -- 400,000 is a lot if you're one veteran who has not been not been looked it's, it's 100% for you. changes heave been made. i'd like to yesterday to ranking memberes city for her opening comments. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i associate myself with all of his comments in particular the same issue areas i think all of us on the committee would like to get your review of, your guidance, your input so that together we can move this forward. i'm happy to welcome ann here today as we enter the home stretch on the implementation of the appeals modernization act. today is this committee's final
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checkin with gao, the veterans benefits a centers board of veteran appeals before the act is fully implemented on february february 14th or thereabouts. was we have already discussed. from what i'm reading in the testimony all systems look to be a good. the secretary is expected to certify in january the va has the resources, personnel, office space, procedures, and information technology required, but before that happens next month, i want to just step back for a moment and highlight the process by which we arrived here. i believe it is a model that for a large scale policymaking, that other committees -- this committee and other committees should look to duplicate. first, appeals modernization has been bipartisan from the beginning, almost four years ago. second, the statue set in place an innovative system tom progress reports from va and gao
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at regular intervals. third, full vso for tis pacing in all stages is required by the statute. that's unprecedented. and i'm happy to report that having check with so this week and throughout the process they have generally been quite well pleased with the feedback they have been given the opportunity to share with va and not only shared but their seeing evidence of that being incop operated in the planning process. we want to make sure that continues and we want to make sure that's reflected in the omb regulations. i strongly encourage this structured va-gao communication to continue after the rollout because it's the veteran service representatives, all around the country, who are working with veterans every day, and they are in the best position to give you constant feedback how in fact all this planning is playing out in the real world.
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another innovation we're studying and applying more broadly is the authority the statute provide va to pilot various components. they did avail themselves of this authority, and i know that the lessons learned in these pilots will mean, and are already meaning, a faster and fairer process for veterans in the end and that is after all the point of the undertaking. while on the verge of one of the most significant improvements in a generation. in how veteran disability compensation claims are processed and i want to congratulate all those who have worked so hard to make these historic changes possible. i want to congratulate our esteemed chairman, -- dominican, to chairman isaacson and ranking member tester, our court parts in the senate and the leadership
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of the vsos who are willing to put aside quite a few concerns and differences at the start of this process, to bring us all together to the table to come to where we are today. i have some questions as well about the i.t. system but ill will reserve those for later. because this is my last opportunity as a member of this committee publicly comment on this important reform, i want to end my remarks with two points. first, with optimism, with optimism but the possibilities that appeals reform hold to make more accurate and timely disability compensation for veterans. secondly, with an appreciation for the unprecedented willingness that has been shown by all to communicate constantly and to work together in the service of the same goal. that is serving the veterans that we are sworn to serve in honor for what they have provided to this country. it has been a pleasure over the
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last two years to be on this committee, last six years in congress working on behalf of veterans and i want to again thank the chairman for his leadership, my ranking member -- my ranking member counterpart, the chairman of the subcommittee, mr. bose, and all the members of the committee and for our guests today. thank you for your work every day on behavior of veterans. thank you, mr. chairman. yield back. >> thank you for your kind comments. join is today are the honorable james byrne, acting deputy secretary. he is accompanied be the honorable sheryl mayson, chairman of the board of veterans appeals. david mcchristianon, director of appeals management offers at the veterans benefit at merchandise and by lloyds thorpe, the deputy chief information officer, account manager, benefits for total of the office of information technology. elizabeth carters the director of work force their gao. thank you all for being here this morning.
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acting deputy secretary byrne, you are recognized for five minutes. >> good morning, chairman roe, ranking member esty and members of the committee. thank you for inviting me to at the on va's implementation of the veterans appeals improvement and modernization ability of 2017. my thanks to this committee for its devotion to veterans, for its strong support of veterans and va, in and for keeping us above partisan politics. i've been acting deputy secretary for just over three months. the year before i served as the va's general counsel. what is clear to me in a short time and to anyone watching, is the va is on the cusp of the most comprehensive improvements since world war ii. in large part that is thanks to this committee's work and the administration's unmitigated support. appeals modernization is one example of historic legislation congress has given veterans in
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the last two years. i'm happy to rot that thinks to sheryl's, differ's, and lloyds' leadership and their team's great work, we're on track for operational launch in february we will continue to keep the committee apricessed of our progression and alert it to any early or delay publication of the regulations. before we take your questions, i'd like to quickly touch on a few points. first, board and vba i.t. teams having grated and work collaboratively and productively of the past year. we expect to meet all appeals modernization i.t. milestones. appeals modernization implementation is not facing the aisle tee challenges we have severe win the forever g.i. implementation. i appreciate concerns that palestine modernization to distract from legacy appeal work but we continue making historic progress on legacy appeals. we reduce the appeals inventory
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by 9.6% in fiscal year 18, despite receiving nearly 188,000 new appeals. vba exceeded their production targets by 12.5% and the board issued a record number of decisions, 62% more than fiscal year 2017. we accomplished this by resolving over 168,000 appeals and administering the rapid appeals modernization program, ramp. we'll continue balancing resources with requirements and preserve focus on legacy appeals through implementation and beyond. third, to facilitate smooth implementation we set and achieved aggressive hiring goals and the board and vba co will be brateed on training and outreach. the board has provided staff large scale training that will continue through full implementation vba developed delivered and continuously
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updates training for employees involved in ramp, and the new processes. finally, both ramp and the board's early applicability of appeals modernization initiative, beam, have tested processes, technology and assumptions in helping to form in the new system. ramp's giving eligible veterans opportunity to have decision reviewed under modernized processes. as of last wednesday, veterans had moved over 75,600 appeals from the legacy to the modernized process. vba has completed nearly 33,000 higher level review and supplemental claims decisions under ramp, on average at 120 days. and has paid almost $137 million in retroactive benefits. in october, the board began adjudicating appeals in ramp. as of monday, they received over 930 ramp appeals. beam, the smaller scale research
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program, has captured qualitative feedback from veterans and representatives that will further inform implementation. the board with provide beam outcomes this month. appeals modernization asia good news store for veterans and va. we collaboratessed on a realistic, effective, flexible plan and have been executing against that plan to and making steadsy progress. veterans can expect modernized appeal process on time in february, 2019. thank you for your support and for inviting us to testify today and we look forward to your questions. >> thank you, mr. byrne. now mrs. curry, you're recognized for five minutes. >> chairman roe, ranking member esty and members of the committee. thank you for inviting me to discuss gao's observation of the readiness to implement reform of the disable appeal system. would like to commend the committee for your extensiveover
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sight of va's planning. the new process will effect the lives of hundreds of thousands of veterans with dip if u differ easterlies and requires careful planning to improve the chance of success. last have we reported that while va's initial plan reflected aspects of sound planning. prompts were still needed to provide greater assurances that appeals reform will be successful. we recommended va's plan one address all legally required elements in the appeals modernization act, two, articulate how to monitor and assess the performance of the appeals processes. three, augment the project plan for implementation. and, four, address risk more fully. va agreed with our recommendations. today, i will discuss our observations on how va's updated plan reflects progress in implementing our four recommendations and areas where their plan could be more row rust. first, regarding the five legal requirements that were not fully addressed in march, va has addressed one element related to
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projecting productivity and partially addressed four remaining elements. for example, va's plan does not contain required metrics for monitoring implementation and still missing information the agency needs to certify it has the resources needed to carry out timely processing under the new and legacy appeals processes. regarding assessing the performance of the new process, vba has established some new performance mothers and has plans to develop more. the va has taken steps to be able to-under and compare veterans satisfaction with the new and egg less gase appeals processes. va officials hereafter stated they plan to establish a balance -- performance measures for all five new appeals onces but va that not documented all of the measures or how it will assess the relative performance of the new and legacy processes. regarding project management, va has augmented the project plan to a limited extent. last march, we report va's high
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level master schedule did not include all activities, show how activities should be scented, reflect interim goals and milestones for monitoring implement addition, or assign resource for activities. although the va project plan provides significantly more detail than it did initially we found the plan only minimally met sound practices for project managementment for example, the schedule did not contain a work breakdown structure that defines the work, activities and resources necessary to accomplish tasks. further, according to va's scheduling, the agency needs to complete 117 activities between january 1st and when it plans to implement in february. the lack of a robust schedule poses risks to successful and smooth implement addition in february. finally, regarding addressing risk more fully, va has addressed many but not all key risks to implement addition. for example, the va is better positioned to mitigate risks by using new analytical toolings to
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project needs. va has also addressed risk by testing the two appeals options that vba, through ramp, and using preliminary results to update elements of the appeals process. va initiated a small scale, johnenizeable test of the threw are in options. va used the limited test to learn about veterans preference among the new board options and update the training, guidance and systems informed needed for fun policemen take. virginia has not testses all aspects of of the new appeals process. for example, va only recently began adjudicating cases for veterans in lamp who were allowed to appeal to the board. va's august 2018 progress report identified a risk that veteran is ma appeal to the bobbed at higher rates which could happen implementations for timeliness and quality of decisions. however va's plan does not identify a mitigation strategy for this significant risk. in
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summary, va made some concrete progress to improve appeals reform while i attends to legacy pieces. fully implementing our recommendations could better position va to ensure successful implementation. but doing so prior to february 2019 may be challenging. the option remains to phase in implementation to allow time for more toasting and plan improvements. in any event even after implementation, va could better assure the new process meets veterans needs by continuing to improve the approach to perform place measurements and scheduling management. this conclude mist prepared statements. >> thank you. ry start yielding myself five minutes and i'll start with mr. byrne. we're two month outside from thest e earliest date and you said three times, that appeals
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modernwidation would be fully implemented it. do you know what the secretary -- that appeals is ready for full implementation, has to certify 30 days out. >> that's correct. he is ready to certify? january bases lan about know now. >> knowing that, i'll go straight to next question, which is, directed at you also, mr. byrne. va agreed with all four vao's recommends in march of this year, and improvement planning practices we be getter ensure successful appeals reform. does va continue to agree with those recommendations? >> i'm trying to remember the four of them. believe. so i may ask for chairman mason to help me with the question if that's okay. >> fine, absolutely. >> yes, sir. va does continue to agree with
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gao's recommendations and we're working closely with georgia on implementing changes and taking some of the suggestions and working towards a more robust plan. >> then having -- if we're ready to go and gao says there's 117 activities that they would recommend, they're not sure you can get to that point and i'm all for if it takes another month, believe me, after going thank you the g.i. bill, if it's march i don't have any problem with that. some people have been waiting for five, six, seven, eight years, so i think another month to get this out right -- i think you have made tremendous progress but how would you answer mr. byrne or miss mason, her comments just a minute ago that a phased-in approach might be better? >> my understanding is we are ready to go, and we'll alert this body if we're going to be able to implement early or later. is a in other words some of the
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recommendations, they were about backup and redundancy plans and i believe we have addressed some of those. i'm not best position maybe to answer those but the two core issues are, are we ready with the regulations, ready with the i.t.? and it's my understanding that we and are we have good -- i have good reason to believe based upon questions to these folks we are. >> just other question on the i.t., mr. thorpe. when you put this -- i assume you were the project manager on putting the system together. how its that -- you think this i.t. system is going, and the g. bill didn't? >> well, i actually i'm not the project manager but i am the liaison between oint and the board. in managing this. this is actually a very different scenario than the g.i. bill. let me just tell you, as of this past weekend we have deployed the solution for all of the
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ports of vbmf required to implement the bill. it is deployed and ready in the field. the case flow work has been incrementally delivered over the last nine months. there are maybe two thing is know of that they're finishing up over the next month, and those i have very good confidence about. very important difference in this scenario than the g.i. bill scenario is that in this instance, we are updating two -- to accomplish this we're updating two critical va systems that we have actually had boots on the ground working hard long before this bill passed. there are teams execution teams that were very familiar with the code, fully funded, and they -- so we -- and the level of requirements we had to deal with was simpler. >> i think you had another thing. the idea you faced in -- phased
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you ramp allowedow to see hiccups rather than having it dumb end in your l.a., that was smart way to do it to begin the way you did, and then if there were problems, they weren't major problems affecting hundreds of thousands of people. they were affecting a few hundred or a few people and you could see those and i i think there's lesson to be learned there. i truly do. >> a very good observation, sir. thank you. >> mr. lam. >> thank you, mr. chairman. he if i could just pick up where the chairman left off, mr. thrower. could you walk us through that how the raulout of new i.t. worked and what the lessons are for other i.t. project inside the va? >> there are concrete examples --
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>> the most important -- i think this was an excellent example of where the organization fully implemented its agile. we had very tight integration with the business from day one no aired gap between news terms of understanding overarms and what was needed. we laid out a schedule early on of capabilities that needed to be done in may and september and december, which we actually published in our report to congress that you had available to you. on the vbms sidement on the case flow side we were doing incremental waves of development from the last two years that have all fed into the successful implementation of this. so -- >> how well-tested has the case flow side been at this sunday how many cases it has handled? >> actually i would have to
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defer to miss mason. >> case flow is operational, has been operational from the point that vba puts the cases into in the process, into the board, into intake, and then case flow queue manages the cases. so pieces of it have been built and operational, so, we started with the intake at the board and dispatch. so, all of our dispatch cases for at least i want to say the last six months -- i leave to double-check that but i'm pretty sure the let's six amongst oz fy18 were handle through the program and the intake part where the -- where vba send thursday cases into the board, that has been, i believe, operational from vba for about the same time period, maybe a little bit more. the case flow queue program at the board, which manages the dockets, that has been fully operational for the past couple
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of months. we phased it in as well. a user tester period and then we continued to phase in. we're currently in user -- final user testing and phase-in for the -- how the cases within ama and legacy will be used through the algorithm that manages how the cases are disbursed. so, we're pretty operational with all the cases currently at the board. >> i guess i'm just asking for an estimate of the sample sizes that have been tried in the new practice. >> i would have to take the current -- i would have to take that as a do-out on that. know majority of the cases dispatched from the board, 85,000, at least half of those came our through case load dispatch. those are all handled at that point. i have to get back to you on how many of the case load queue program is but it's iraning and operational and that's how the case are being progressioned
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currently. >> what is user satisfaction appear to be with that so far. >> very high at the board. dave? >> same thing. actually, chairman mason is correct, in fact one of the first pieces of case load delivered was when we certify an appeal -- a legacy appeal to the board, that's been in place well over a year and that actually doesn't just help the efficiency of managing work. it actually improves the quality of sections to the board so very large impact. >> okay. was that an off the shelf purchase or developed when the va? >> case flow? >> yes. >> bit by a digital service. they were already working on. digital service has been in va scintillate 2015 and already working on building the case load system before the law passed. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, i yield back.
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>> thank you the gentleman for yielding, the vice chair is recognizees. >> thank you. first question is for acting deputy secretary byrne. according to information provided to staff, the vbms release schedule for december 9, 2018, was supposed to include the remainder of the vp -- vbms function inial it in needed to implement the law with planning production, validation testing occurring in january and february. if after all the testing, hopefully this will not be the case but va realizes that the vbms appeals functionality is not working as intended, what is va's backup plan, contingency plan? >> so the legacy appeals process will be working for a while. so they would fall back into those is my understanding.
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>> can you -- yes, please. >> sir -- >> address the new appeals as well. >> i would just say that the work of vbms to make its done is finished. it is fullly tested and deployed. >> okay. let me ask another question of deputy secretary byrne. according to the november 2018 update, van plans to hire 542 new claims processors. is that correct? well place them in st. petersburg which is just outside of my district in florida, and in seattle. this is what i was told. how many of the 542 new claim processors will be placed into the appeals positions at d rocks in near m-st. petersburg, the
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division? >> ask mr. mc -- >> good news here, congressman. 6035fte was the additional appropriation we got for appeals in fy19 so thanks to the committee and others in congress for that support. i'm happy to report 75% of that hiring is already done. the distribution between those two locations is 400 in st. pete and the rye e remainedders in seattle. 75 -- remainder in seattle, the they will be up and rung by february. >> how will you ensure these people are appropriately trained in again, on the appeals process and the applicable laws and regulations. >> yes. so, we have already hired all of the management team for those two locations and we have hired all of the production employees with just a few exemptions. majority of the production employees are already hired. some of them are already in
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training and we have training scheduled for the remainder to go into. so they're going through the challenge training program to prepare them for doing that work. that's all been scheduled and. n place. >> chairman mason, how many years do you estimate it will take for the board to address the current legacy appeals backlog? how many years? one you're -- >> more than one year. >> give me a ballpark, please. >> that's really lard to do without guesstimating right now because the board relies on the cases coming in from vba to work those legacy cases. vba has a deadline they have set, plus we are bringing in the va cases and work those and balances those weapon do expect to be able to tell you a timeline after february, after we start the new process, because the legacy will -- owl
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cases then will be in ama and we'll have a better number, a determination of how long it will take us. >> so you'll get back to news february. >> after the february 14th -- >> after february -- >> i'm hoping early spring but as soon as i have it i will report out. >> please threat it to us ill appreciate that. >> will do so, sir. >> secretary byrne, what are va's plans for comparing the performance of the legacy system and new appeals process using a range of goals and measures like timeliness and of course veterans satisfaction, which is so very important? >> it's my understanding there are and will be several surveys to inform us going forward if implementing the new modernization. feed beak from veterans is key toward everything we do in a particular claims and appeals
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such as this. so it's a circle -- a loop, sir, of feedback. >> can you address the timeliness as well? , satisfaction from the veteran but timeliness. what's the goal as far as timeliness is concern in general. >> i have a general. chairman mason can give us specifics. >> both the board and vba are monitoring our metrics on performance, quality and timeliness and as we move forward, we are starting to plussing to the numbers in and adjust those numbers a little bit. we will have timeliness goals for you. vba're runs those in the ramp program with the average of 125 days. the board expects to do the direct docket in an average of 365 days. the other two lanes, i'm hoping, again, to get metrics on that once i get into the systemment
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the current ramp appeals program testify board is getting me early data. at this point in time nil start rung all five dockets and get that absolutely running and launched, i am not comfortable giving you full data on the timely nut but wen monitoring that and collaborating and run ning the metrics as we are tired under section 5 of the ama. >> thank you very much. yield back. >> mr. custer, your recognized. >> thank you, and thank you for being with us. just want to go black to the veteran experience if we could. can you walk us through after this is all online, what the veteran experience would be, what their choices would be, and what the time frames would be that they can expect for resolution of their claim. >> i can pull out my chart and follow it, ma'am. but i can assure you that
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chairman mason right off the top of her head can walk you through that. >> i just want the american people to know what veterans can expect. >> so, first and for most we are working very closely with the office of veterans experience within the department, and working on those surveys won't were already have surveys launched and receiving satisfaction information back. so that's the first thing we're looking at. second thing we have also launched this appeals status tracker on the va web site to allow veterans to log on and see exactly where they're appeal is and where their claim and is that provides them feedback, to the are already launches and rung. both the board and vba have been very transparent with our neighbors on how we are doing and what we're doing, those in training programs, we have been out speaking, whether together or separately. we have provided the timelines for 125 days, for vba, what
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they're expectation and is that's an average. we'll continue to monitor that within vba, and then at the board, the direct docket is 365 lane. we expect to complete those within the 365 -- >> including a hearing? >> hearings are not. that's a separate lane. the additional evidence lane which is 90 days, additional evidence submission and the hearing line are going to take longer. the situation with hearings is the board, is a-under currently have 71,000 veterans in the legacy who have requested hearings. and i am working on those. i i have redistributed my resources and i expect to announce something very soon with the collaboration with oit on hearings which will impact the ability of the board to hold more hearings. >> do you have sufficient resources and personnel to process the 71,000 hearings? >> i do. it's going to take me a minute but we have actually reduces that number. we starts the year with over 80,000 and we were able to hold
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16,000 hearings last year. we offered 24,000 veterans eitherred and scheduled or did not appear for 9,000 of the cases. this year we expect to offer -- already started but expect to offer over 34,000 hearing opportunities. to date the board has held over 4500 hearings, which is ahead of schedule for what we offered last year and we're continuing to do that. >> it would take somewhere between two to five years to process the backlog. how many new hearings are requested every year? >> right now? with the appeals -- with the ama coming in out of the 930 ramp cases the board has received to date, 450 of those are hearing requests so -- >> so half, roughly half. >> that's generally what we have seen, our average is half request hearings. that is something we are looking
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and it's have already started to change my resource allocation with any judges on how to handle the decisions and the hearings, and i expect that will have an impact going forward, and as we start to implement those changes, i will be happy to report back to you all on how we're doing. again, the board does report information on its web site, on a regular basis, usually weekly how we're could go on the decisions dispatched and the hearings held and that is our mission. those two things are our mission and that's my job is to make sure we do them and get those results to veterans. >> and our job is to make sure you have the resources to do that. so, just trying to do the math in my head, it doesn't sound as though you'll be able to toes the backlog while you keep up with half of the new indications requesting hearings. so, i would just recommend to
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the chair and to the incoming chair next session that we consider additional resources to help you get through this. >> thank you, ma'am. >> yield back. mr. cop lynn, core recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. chairman mason, the -- they'rewoman mason, the ramp pilot was implemented to test the new appeals process prior to full implementationing your testimony indicates ramp has been successful, noting over the past year, 74,399 appeals were processed using ramp, which reduced the legacy appeals inventory. what percent of these ramp appeals met quality standards,
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specifically how many appeals decision received a quality review to ensure accuracy and identity errorses that would warrant retraining for employees? >> so, first i'm going to answer the question as to ramp appeals at the board which start inside october and then hand it over to -- for the vba ramp program because he has that data and in charge of that pimps as far as ramp appeals we have our quality review system in place and are running quality review. did quality review in the first 40 ramp appeals issued and then since then we have run the statistical standard on that. if we have not yet seen any indications of a need for training or trend but working closely. our current quality rate at the board for both the ramp appeals and for board decisions is over
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92%. >> so we look at quality and number a david ways in the ramp program. this is a temporary program, so we are really focused on setting up a new quality assurance program nor higher level reviews in februaryment for ramp, we actually did 100% quality review during the training for the 12 stations doing the ramp processing in va. in addition to that we have local quality assurance program where a sample of the work that's being done is reviewed locally. in addition to that we have done four site visits at some of the stations that have been processing ramp longest, including taking samples of claims decided and reviewing quality on that basis. we are also doing special focus reviews and this was primarily to ensure that because it is a little bit of a cultural change for higher level reviewers in particular, they're following the procedures we put out for
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ramp and so those special focus reviews zeroed in on that. so we have a pretty comprehensive program for reviewing the ramp decisions and make sugar that they're accurate but i want to point it, one advantage of the ramp program, once they get a decision they're in the thank you process so they have that control in and the options over their review they would have after february. so if they're still dissatisfied after the decision on the average of 120 days, they eave thank you option and benefits of in the new process to including choosing another option once they get the decision, some really, that is the real advantage of opting in through ramp. you get all the benefits of the new system. >> chairwoman mason, how are vba and bva ensuring in -- i think this was answered -- ensuring the quality of claims processed using ramp and beam?
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>> so, the beam, again, was small scale program that the board tested to see if our communications and what veterans were understanding in various different organizations from the vso and advocates, and so we were able to get feedback from the beam program, qualitative feedback and changed our form letters in respond that way to the feedback. that's the beam portion. the board and vba work together on our training and our quality review process, and recently in november, the board and vba launched an appeals training initiative that we are working together to provide training to really the dual chaining action. we provide some training to vba and they give us some feed back on what they're saying and we just launched the project. it's get great feedback initially and that's how we expect to move forward. that's the vehicle we're going
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to use as we move out to process the feetback and the trends we're seeing as a result of that. >> chairman, i yield back. >> thank you. miss mason, if you wouldn't mind, would you send us a blank survey, one so we can -- both sides of the aisle can look at that? >> absolutely. we can get at that time from the veterans experience office. >> mr. rockier, you're recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. from the opening testimony it send others though the gao was telling us that we weren't ready for implementation in february, and based on your recommendations you didn't feeling like there was enough time for va to implement those and you suggest a phase-in approach, and if i heards you correct, mr. secretary, you feel the va is ready and there's no need to have a face-in approach. so i -- phase-in.
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i wonder, given was you heard from secretary byrne and chairwoman mason, whether their answers to our questions so far address your outstanding concerns and whether you agree with them they're ready to go. if not. i would love for you to share with us what you think the consequences are if the va goes without having addressed the legal requirement, the performance measures, the project management concerns, including 117 activities you mentioned they're not a robust schedule to implement those and then the rings, which is your fourth point. >> certainly. there's nothing i have heard tissue we have been talking to the va folks and we have their perspective on this. this biggest risk from our perspective to implementation is the risk that you will -- when veterans are faced with identify new option crazy has not been tested before, that larger numbers of them will go opt for
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a hearing at the board. that is the most resource intensive option. and could have implications for the ability of the board to process legacy claims and also to take care of the folks now signing up for something new and hoping that would get better for them. so, in terms of mitigating that risk, we have recommended taking several steps as they -- if they continue to fully implement. our expectations for performance so they can monitor against expectations and see are we meet organize not meeting goals, and then even if they delay full implement addition of the process, they could allow more time to model test or phase in the board options and develop contingency plans if outcome are not what are expected. in terms of another sort of big risk area is -- i think the
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board as allude todd this -- this is large scale change for everyone involved, all the staff, managers, you're hiring new people. and change management is complicate business, and can take time. it's kid by important to communicate to all the players, all the stake hodsers, what egg happening with the change, and the stakeholders as well, and it has to be -- has to be buy-in. so that can take a little time and i'm not completely sure that the change management to date has been as robust as it could be. was there another aspect of the question? >> i'm just wondering if these outstanding concerns are not addressed and the va does not take a phase-in approach and implements without being fully ready, what's the worst that could happen to veterans and one
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of thing i hear you saying may not be resources and -- some unintended consequences over path that veterans may choose and perhaps the suggestion is that in the facebook congress we appropriate additional resources to meet that demand. i wonder, secretary byrne, one of the concerns raised that seems to be a consistent problem with the va -- and i know chairman airing ton has been on this -- the lack of performance measures, how to know whether you're successful, how you're doing along the way, and that was the second outstanding concern from the gao, va has not developed measures to assess performance. how will you know if you're successful or not? >> that's a fair question and i think the gao concerns are fair as well, but the big picture is, we're offering the veterans choice and control over the appeals process that is sort of
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unpress denned, making it ease 'er and veteran-user friendly. the phased-in approach i appreciate that comment. however, ramp is given us a pretty good picture how this will we implemented. >> if could interrupt. i'm out of time. if we don't have defined goals, we'll never know how we're doing. you can say we're giving it our best, giving veterans options, feels good hired a lot of people this is better than what it was but if i don't know what the target is, how can we gauge your performance and hold you accountable? of the concerns raised by gao, that is the most concerning to me and i hope that you can working with the georgia come up with defined performance measures we can hold ourselves accountable. i yield back to the chairman. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman and the ranking member. thank you also to the panel for being here today. my questions for the honorable
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cheryl mason, chairman my son, the secretary has delegated to you the authority to oversee appeals reform implement addition, have you faced anyway challenges given that you do not have line authority over all the different elements of va that are involved in appeals reform such as vba and oimt? >> thank you for your question, ma'am. the board -- the way the situation works with the board is the board is the secretary's designee and so that is under the law where the board sits. having said that, the board -- you're creque, the board does not have line authority. there's no way i can tell them what to do. but we work very collaboratively and the one thing i will tell you is the new undersecretary
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wiki and acting secretary bern we hereafter a very strong governance program and coming to monthly and discuss the issues before us and so it's a collaborative issue. so while i may have point for this, it's a collaboration. so if there's a concern on a appeals on the vba side or an issue with oint that's something that the department handles as a governance body, not just me. i'm just the driver to make sure i bring those issues to the governance board. to dade i have not had any issues we work very co lab bra differentlying to and have done so since i became chairman. >> how are you enshiring that va has a comprehensive and cohesive plan to successfully develop and implement the new system?
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>> well, the undersecretary for benefits and i meet every two weeks and discuss pick challenged within the appeals structure and this planning. also meet on a regular by says with oint leadership and we talk but the customer service requirements there. and it's the same thing with -- with the vha. i meet with the acting -- as well, so i have oversight all of that through the secretary and the acting deputy secretary, and then my job is to report out if there's any issues. but we do have a comprehensive plan. that is what you have seen in the 90-day reports we have sent out. the board has had the lead on putting those together but it's a collaboration. we have to work in partnership and we have to take care of all of our customers across the organization and order to deliver results to veterans. >> thank you, mr. chairman, yield back. >> miss esty, you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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i would like to raise the question, concerns of the new i.t. skim, the case flow queue is not fully ready. they raidern decide they're unable to view legacy cases through case flow. can you provide a specific date by which the vsos will have access to legacy cases via case flow. >> we are currently actually testing the collocationed vso tuesday he board they have access at the board right now. we just rolled that out. on a limited basis. we're testing. that's part of our phase-in, going forward into january '19 and full delivery in february we expect to braden that. that will be more of a phased insure process with case flow because there are procedures that the vsos have to go through to meet those access requirements that our department requirements. so, we are also -- already
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working and they do have access in the program now. >> thank you. i know that's very important in our effort to really comprehensively address issues if they cannot see -- the vsos are knuble see he legacy claims we are not seeing the promised benefits of the i.t. ennow vacation. ... and some of them may be very small at 117 items between january 1 and february 14 is a
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lot and there will be new congress and lots of questions. have you considered delaying that in order to be certain you've done the data testing in europe. today the rollout fully so we did not lose the goodwill we have been attempting to regain from veterans? >> there are has been some robust discussions over the last couple of weeks over implementation of various programs and this one in particular. this is one that i can tell you the secretary and i have a lot of confidence in the implementation. the regulations we don't completely control that process. it's being evaluated right now so that would be the holdup. from an i.t. perspective my understanding is we are much, much further and we are implementing it. my understanding we are driving that car right now and that's why from a layman's perspective the secretary and i have confidence we will be able to implement this on time. the caveat would be the
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regulations that we have every indication that is going to be on time as well. >> thank you. you mentioned that we have only had 30 cases go through right now and mr. byrne you indicated that was the qualitative feedback but yet for the process to fully run out you are moving from 900 cases of which only 30 of him through. what assurance do you have you'll be in a position again in less then, in about two months to be able to have this fully functioning so that you understand how those cases go through and are ready to implement them across-the-board? >> out such on that lately and as chairman mason to help me out on that. it was a very detailed interview , feedback loop process with their veterans to ensure we were delivering to them for
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control and choice that they have been asking for from the veterans, from the vso's and from within terminal. as far as the actual implementation i think those were a little bit apples and oranges. the implementation is about the regulations being available on time and having the i.t. solution performing. we have the highest degree of confidence in i understand we are all a little gun shy about the actual execution but in this case there's a high degree of confidence that we will be able to execute as produced it in february. >> to be more precise where they've been able to incorporate that qualitative feedback detail from 30 cases two inc. and ready to go? >> maam we haven't -- have incorporated the feedback already and are form letters and
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to the board specifically. as far as -- that was enough for us to get the initial information but then we have the takeover and it gave us information. >> i think the gentlelady for yielding. mr. poliquin you are recognized. >> thank you very much mr. chairman. i appreciated and i appreciate the great bipartisan work over the last couple of years and in this committee. i represent the rural parts of maine and some people think all of maine is rural but that is not true. health care close to home is a critical issue for veterans in rural maine and i'm delighted that all this work has been done so the law of the land can get their for health care close to home. that initiative started with a pilot program mr. chairman. maine was one of five places in
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the country where the program started and was rolled out nationally. now we are here with these nice folks before us talking about this problem we have had for a number of years with the appeals back log and you have a couple of pilot programs to roll this out. mr. byrne and you can delegate to anyone this idea that's more effective but tell us, what have you learned in your two pilot programs just like we have learned in northern maine the pilot program that led to the mission act in the choice program that has been rolled out nationally? what if you learned that you can share with us that if he roll this out in time across the system you have a better success rate? >> and if i may mr. mason be as specific as you can please. >> i think i'm going to start
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and i'm going to delegate it to mr. mclenachen. really what the board learned primarily is how important it is to listen to our stakeholders. >> did you have a way to get that feedback very user-friendly for our veterans so they can logon and get back to you very quickly and very easily so you can assess that? >> with the experience customer surveys we can receive that feedback immediately. >> how about folks who live in rural maine don't have access to the internet? howdy how do he do that? >> i think they can do service electronically and by mail. i can check on that. i'm going to hand the rest of the answer over to mr. mr. mclenachen. >> it's really help us because we have received and this goes back to the previous question we done 30 or thousand decisions in
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the program so wasn't just feedback you're getting from small-scale programs that all of those decisions we are we are making so we were getting feedback from representatives of veterans and from veterans, our employees. >> what have you learned that you can share with us? we have learned how to improve the receipt jars we are launching permanently. >> be specific. >> a higher-level reviewer has to do in some cases an informal conference with the veterans. we have received a lot of feedback about how to make the process better and improve the scheduling of those. there's a lot of those. >> just on average sir how much time in the legacy system if a veteran hasn't appealed because these getting back a decision for me a nice folks and it's not what he expected to be or what it should be how long does an outtake to go through that process on average? >> on average three to seven
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years. >> how long do you think it will take with what you are implementing that we have given you a lot of money to do. >> an average of 125 days and as chair mason said they fastest opportunity is an average of one year. >> you expect to go from anywhere from three to seven years to roughly four months to one year? god osu. we are all behind you and i hope you do it. >> right now we are processing claims that an average of 120 days. >> okay. how do you get in the vso's involve? so many of our veterans on the ground touch veterans organization services on a regular basis. how do you bring them into the fold so they can help you roll these out effectively get the word out and keep our veterans well informed? >> at this goes back to the chairman's opening statement taking you back to march of
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2016. we started this by getting all stakeholders in the room together. that's how we did this. >> did they do a good job? >> absolutely. they have been with us every step of the way to include promoting ramp and everything else. >> mr. byrne i'm going to ask my last question quickly. you folks mentioned hiring a bunch of people to make it work smoothly. i like to remind you you have a think its 385,000 people at the veterans administration. can you find people internally to do this so we don't spend taxpayer money to have to do this all over again? were you able to do that? >> to a certain degree i think we were. >> how many people you had to hire for this project came from the inside? >> can i asked chairman mason for that specific? >> we looked at offering and we will have to get back to you sir.
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i don't know how many exactly. >> thank you very much and i yield back a time. good luck everybody. >> there's a new york minute and then there's a maine minute. those are different. i yield to mr. correa. >> thank you mr. chairman. the panel, the application and limitation of the appeals modernization act, how are you including vso said that process? >> i'm just going to touch on briefly. the vso's were part of the ground for and coming up with control and choice for the veterans. they were the driving factor in this and we continue that feedback with them in this process. their service representatives are a key part. >> you are actually getting feed back and implementing that feedback? >> we have regular meetings
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serve. the secretary has regular meetings and the chairman we sometimes do joint meetings so we are interacting with their vso's on a regular basis. the board has co-located dso's that's it with us in that handle the cases and we meet with them on a regular basis as well. we are constantly taking feedback hand taking the pulse from rpso's. >> moving forward to continue see that to be the case? >> absolutely. >> are we okay? cs, no? get it? can't read sign language. are we okay? thumbs up, thank you very much. >> mr. higgins you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman.
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thank you ladies and gentlemen for your service to our country. mr. mclenachen thank you for your service as an army veteran. i have constant communication with the veterans that i served in south louisiana and their primary complaint regarding the process out of new orleans as they are looking at appeals from 2014 in 2015, certainly hundreds of back loved appeals cases. most of the hearings there is a requirement for veterans here in new orleans. these guys have a transportation problem. if they curated medical conditions and in some cases mental challenges certainly financial and transportation challenges. their hearing dates get moved and shifted and it's hard enough for them to get to their va medical facility.
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wherein we have invested tremendous amounts of people's treasure in order to completely modernized these facilities but in my district i have two brand-new state-of-the-art technology. i don't understand as a veteran myself why a veteran would be required to drive 250 miles to a hearing when it's hard enough for them to get 20 miles for medical facility. we have invested incredible amounts of treasure in these facilities to make them tell a capable and the decisions made about their appeals were primarily medical in nature. i'm told the i.t. systems and the peels arena does not communicate well with their i.t. systems in the medical arena. it's just unacceptable to me as a veteran and a congressman.
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would you please address that is a veteran yourself? >> yes sir and thank you. we have done a lot of work in this area. the hearings you are referring to are board hearings. we do the scheduling for those right now. >> eig review based upon medical conditions. are they not 100% of the time? >> that's generally correct based on medical exams that are done an initial decision process and that there's an appeal to the board one of the things the board looks at is do we fulfill our duty to assist the veteran in their claim which includes providing medical examination. >> i asked generally is there a commitment from the va to integrate i.t. systems and to enhance the abilities of veterans to attend their hearings more locally at the medical facilities? is that on the horizon?
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can we look at that? >> yes on the immediate horizon. >> thank you madam. that's encouraging. secretary byrne i hear you service the va general counsel. >> yes, sir. >> thank you for your service. you are commander byrne? >> lieutenant colonel. >> roger that. thank you for your service. >> spent the current regulatory process involves another component of the executive branch and that is where it's under review right now. we have expectations that it's going to come out on time and be published sufficiently before the february 14 deadline. we are tracking it and if we have any indication it's going to come out early or late we will certainly let this body know now. >> your optimism and your tone has been encouraging. it's uplifting to us to hear that sort of a can-do attitude.
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we recognize what you guys are dealing with is incredibly difficult. i have a follow-up question for you sir. will the secretary still certify next month the final rules not yet published? >> yes or he will certify. >> will the secretary certified next month? >> yes, sir. >> i take that as aes. >> yes, sir. >> finally even if the final regulations are completed by the implementation how can you ensure that va disseminates that information to train staff on the new regulations and forms which is a nightmare and the va. prior to the effective date of the law? >> i'm going to kick this over but i hope the training is already underway. >> that training has already been underway for some time.
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the ward and i believe that va and mr. mclenachen can take that the board has offered training on a regular basis for the new law as well as i.t. changes as well as forms and we are working with the vso's in those areas as well. >> thank you madam. i yield. >> mr. mcconnell you are recognized. >> think mr. chairman. secretary byrne and chairman mason regarding legacy claims could you discuss how we won't leave these people behind? >> mr. secretary. >> i believe chairman mason is going to tell you that we will balance the resources that we have an a legacy claims are a priority.
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>> that is correct sir. the department made a commitment in march of 2015 when we started this process that led to the modernization act passing that we would prioritize it and we are keeping that commitment. i believe and i can't speak for mr. mclenachen but my understanding is the board specifically the caseload program is already in and they are testing the algorithm program which was built for the 5 digital services that has a prioritization peace and that prior to isis the legacy cases over the direct documents. >> we know what research it's going to take to complete our legacy appeals as well as the new system. we are separately out allocating resources to each of those. >> both of you and chair mason
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have you made efforts to meet with the union during the discussion and implementation of new regulations rounding the appeals modernization act? >> the union and the represents we meet with the leadership team. it's not always me. sometimes it's my leadership team. the union has been involved in our training process and there's a partner at the table to discuss how we are rolling those out. we give the union notification as required. >> all the way back from when we implemented graham to what we are doing today. >> you would say it's fairly regular weekly, monthly. >> its monthly or quarterly
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depending on what the request is. >> have you incorporated any of their suggestions from these quarterly or monthly meetings during the proposed rulemaking? >> yes. all of our employees gave feedback on the process. specifically i don't know that we have used anything in the rulemaking on that because that was an internal agency piece but we did discuss what the comments were. >> mr. mclenachen. >> usually the union is concerned that the impact on employees would implement major initiatives like this so we have fully advise them on that and they have told us her concerns about implementation we have tried to address those as best we could. >> what assurances are you giving the frontline employees
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that they will have adequate time to adjust to the new procedures and regulations as they are being implemented. but they are not unfairly dinged during the implementation and immediately thereafter. >> at the board we rolled out new standards. we met with union partners in preparation for field modernization and is part of that change was to measure attorneys to measure their production on the november issues. it is exactly how we will report. we report on the decisions as well as some of our issues under field modernization per there's also a training piece that is part of our union agreement. they get a certain piece of time that doesn't count towards training. >> the same with bba? when we implement something like
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this there's a map omission period or employees to get used to the new procedures. just want to point out though the law does not change the entitlement to benefits and how we process those claims. it's really up process change rather than changing the way they are used to making decisions based on entitlement that veterans have. >> it looks like you are representing to me that it's adequate time for employees to adjust and acclimate. >> that is always the case. >> i think i'm not going to take a maine minute. i'm just going to yield back. >> i'm going to take a personal provision think members of this committee before everyone is gone. a classmate of mine at the veteran of the marine corps and the u.s. army said he made one good choice in the u.s. army. colonel byrne thank you for your
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service all these years on the committee and the things you've done for the folks in denver in the denver va. he stayed on that. thank you so much for that. [applause] ms. stu will be leaving congress. >> a pleasure working with you. very positive and intuitive things that you have done for not only constituents in your district but across the entire country so thank you for that. [applause] and before mr. o'rourke escaped to thank him for his work on the committee. he has been terrific and certainly has the passion of the people and the people he represents. i want to thank all three of you. he won't be here next term to work on veterans issues. i know it's near and dear to your heart in me personally. thank you to each and everyone of you. general bergman i yield five minutes. >> it's okay to be a marine though, right? even though we like to think
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that mr. coffman succeeded so successfully in the army because of this basic training in the core. thank you everyone. we will keep this to the point at hand but speaking of veterans in the first district of michigan, michigan is a state has a high percentage of both men and women who served in the first district of michigan we have almost double the percentage of veterans as to other districts in michigan. it's been an honor these first two years to represent the veterans all of veterans in the district. the point of that is has there have been any consideration in the appeals process? to prioritize older veterans because of where they are in the time in their life? >> actually sir thank you for
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the question. the board does have the docket process already in place. 75 or older it's automatically flagged and we work those cases first. with their new algorithm the docket cases, those are all in the prior decision regardless of whether they are legacy are ama. it also plays of veterans who have terminal health issues as well as financial issues in this past year on my own motion i advanced cases on the docket for the hurricanes as well as the typhoon in the mariana islands. we are releasing a statement of belief by the end of the week for the california fires in the alaska earthquake. we do advanced cases for those veterans and veterans reach that age it's an automatic flight. >> is there something they have
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to fill out versa just automatic tickets to the information they provide under age and it's automatically put in? >> for agents automatically flagged. >> communication is not what is said. it's what is heard. it may or may not translate into the veteran understanding when they receive a letter. i received some interesting letters from government agencies addressing my senior status and different things that i have no clue what the point of the letter is. i'm not going to get into the details and i think you've asked a couple of other folks what does this mean? there were some head scratching going on. i know the va i believe has made an effort to make more and understand zero written communication so when that veteran receives it they can actually understand what the
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point of the letter is. would anyone care to give me an example of the success in that? >> yes, actually i'm happy to point out that is the priority for the undersecretary who has a program that he is running now for he has an individual white with the review of the letters to do exactly that creates. >> so does that include feedback because we talk about the feedback loop that has been put in. is that include feedback? >> yes. >> so we can look at the success of a letter or the success and praises. is that something that's visible to us as a committee to see where the changes have been made? >> yes in effect the model that we use for field modernization is something we are trying to use further in the department but in particular in the va.
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getting veteran service organizations, veterans and getting their perspective on whether it is understandable and at the department's level veterans experience is very helpful and focused on a particular issue. >> we have survey results from the veterans office that we get on a regular basis that tells us how we are communicating at hearings that our decisions are being received by veterans in that medication p. so we are looking at that regularly. >> i know my time is short here but it's one thing to provide an opportunity for feedback. the second step of course is taking that feedback and truly evaluating it to turn whatever it is you're trying to accomplish into a better document or better can indication. thank you and i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman for yielding. >> i want to associate myself
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for your accommodation to our veterans miss at. >> -- esty -- we are making progress. the guy who held the seat that i served in three decades ago, he used to tell a story about a public schoolteacher in texas, a little town like a lot of little towns of my district farming and ranching county. yet a public schoolteacher named miss little page. she taught accounting and she kept it simple. she said an accounting you have money coming in and you have money coming out. if you have more money going out than you have coming in you broke. i want to apply her principle of accounting to this discussion. you have incoming cases and you
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have resolve around incoming cases and if you have more incoming cases then you have outgoing you broke. the system is broke. we cannot continue with the backlog of over 40,000. the whole point of this was to have a more timely resolution of these claims. that may go through the numbers here and make sure my debit/west texas math is working appropriately. the ramp claims and let me just start there. anybody can answer this who is the expert to ramp deals with two of the three lanes, correct? the anticipation of the pilot was that we would have more people i think that signed up for ramp saying they would go to
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those two lanes. thank you a 16% versus 40% so not as many people signed up for signed on maybe to the two lanes of ramps testing. is that a fair statement? >> it is. we are about 18% right now opting in and we have seen it go up every month since we have been writing the program. >> in a case where he didn't get as many on the two lanes as ramps testing you have more going into that third line. is that an accurate assumption or fair assumption? >> we deliberately designed the ramp program not to include that land because we don't just want to trade a long process that is broken now for people going to the board and one in early resolution and we are doing that quickly in those two lanes. >> november 30 there were
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420,000 pending appeals. about 130 of those thousand appeals were with the board ms. mason. my understanding is that by 2024 you will be 400 towson and i'm reading let's see here, the board projected the inventory more than doubled from 27 -- from 50,000 to around 40,000. is that not accurate? >> i believe what we are doing in that estimate and that was for more than a year ago. >> let's just say an approximate number by 40,000. here's my bigger point. you guys have had a better number in terms of resolutions of 85,000 when you put the
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incoming is 90 plus thousand, correct? >> this past year we only received 69,000. >> do we expect it will be 90 of three year? to my understanding was that was a pretty good rolling average of the last several years. >> you are correct. >> this is just an anomaly of 60 something. you'll always been a deficit mode so you will never get -- you won't have the capacity to receive the incoming. i don't know what you are going to do with the legacy as mr. mcconnell mentioned. are we ever going to get at the backlog and will we ever have the capacity not just to meet the demand that's exceeded? that's the only way we are going to get at the bigger legacy of foreigner plus thousand. my time has expired but if the chairman would indulge me an answer that long question. >> excellent questions. one factor you are not
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considering is in february we shut off the legacy process. one other factor to consider is every year we received more than 160,000 new legacy appeals pick up so we have been receiving so the fact that we are asked for and in 20,000 we were at four and 75,000. while we were receiving a constant flow of 160,000 new appeals every year that is significant that we brought that number down. we shut the flow off in their poor and we will have no more going to legacy. that's really the key from that discussion. it shows the flow off to the organ system and you're absolutely correct it's broken. considering that factor we believe we at the vba will get through our legacy appeals in 2020 which is a vast improvement over what we were talking about a couple of years ago. a wildcard for the board is they
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get their appeals from us so we resolve what we can first and take the appeal to them. they rely in what is flowing from us to them. in addition even though the board decided 85,000 which was great many of those are remand spent to vba where we have to do more work or that's the key to what is broken in the current process. the constant churn that back-and-forth between the vba in the board. the committee has worked to shut that off. at least a good portion of it. >> everything i don't believe those stats take into consideration the resource of the congress gave the board that has allowed us to hire more people and increase the resources. use of the payout from fy18. we are going to continue so that's going to change with the estimate is. we going to give you a new number. i can't get there until i get to
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their word that you will get a new number serve. >> do you have any closing comments? >> just briefly. mr. chairman i thank all of the witnesses for coming forward and i met with some of you in private. i am cautiously optimistic that the implementation will be successful and that the work that was done by this committee on a bipartisan basis to lay the groundwork, the work that my colleagues did in the ranking member and ranking member dena ticas and the whole way in which the vso's work together and this committee worked together mr. chairman. our smalltalk up here indicates
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both of us have a cautiously good feeling about where this is going. i'm happy to hear that i.t. in the work you have done with digital services seems to have more good. i do want to say my farewell to mr. coffman. i truly admire the work that you have done served. under my presumption of chairmanship you can guarantee you will not be forgotten and we care about all the veterans and we are going to make sure that all of these medical centers all get up to snuff. what a pleasure it has been to be your colleague and it is with great notice that i say you are and are asleep talented. you will be contributing to our country and our nation and continue to contribute to your neck community and mr. or work
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is not here but there's enough already being said about him and i have a feeling we haven't heard the last of him. what is special bipartisan space this is mr. chairman. i know we will continue this relationship that we have. i will do my utmost to preserve the tradition of this committee so thank you. >> would the gentleman yield? >> i will yield, yes. >> i'm excited and looking forward to the new leadership here and my understanding is i am looking at one of the new leaders of this committee but i want to say something about the current leader as we wrap this session up. this is for many of us on the committee are first term in congress and i did not anticipate i would have the privilege of serving on this committee. i certainly didn't fully
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appreciate how protect does this committee would be. and i think a lot of that is the bipartisan nature. it has to be stewarded by the captain of the ship. it trickles down from the top and the leader of this committee sets the tone. i just want to say mr. chairman and ranking member walz we are here would commend him as well but chairman thank you for your tremendous leadership for all of us to lead us through one of the most comment would have to be, don't know the numbers but the two pass 80 veteran related bills in the house virtually all of them bipartisan coming out of this committee and to have almost 30 veteran related reforms, major initiatives like
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the mission act and the new fervor g.i. bill etc. etc. like this appeals process, i can't find another space and spot in place in the united states congress that has been more productive and more ably led and lead in a way that reflects not just well on your colleagues that on the character of the men and women who wear the unit armed who we are trying to serve. you set a great example for me and for my freshman class in all of this on this committee. thank you for your leadership and thank you for your service not just to our veterans but to our entire nation over this last two years of the 115th congress. [applause] >> thank you very much. i appreciate your kind words. thank you very much for that. it's much appreciated and again you have heard me thank the
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committee profusely for what they have done and also want to thank the people who are here today. you all have done a great job. we are excited about this because i can promise you every member up here probably the most individual cases we worked on at home our veterans cases. here we have more people on our staff that work on those. most of them are appeals or something relating to the d.a.. i want to thank you all for getting this up. i think it's going to work and i think the ramp program to give us a good trial run. as i said in the opening i have heard any number of people come up and say hey doc this ramp program got my case adjudicated very rapidly. ms. schaffer i think it's it. idea two teleconference. it makes absolute sense. we have the capacity and a schedule that with the veteran in in their hometown makes
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sense. they don't have to travel long distances and it's more difficult for them to travel. any other good ideas we have flushed out today by look forward to and one thing i've learned that this bill is to continue to bring the stakeholders back and every few months and go over where we are. that maybe was a mistake and some of the bills. if we are here next week we will be doing a mission hearing next wednesday afternoon. i think we have learned a lot from you all and kudos to you all and the good work you have done. i appreciate it and look forward to going live next year. >> mr. coffman. >> is a veteran of united states army also is a retired physician
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it was extremely important terms ringing and sharing that knowledge and your experiences with this committee. it's very important and of course we him of the acronym for army stands for -- but we won't go there. >> i thank the gentleman. i will yield any more time to that gentleman. i was about to dismiss us. no further questions. thank you all for being here and i ask unanimous consent written statements provided for the record the place in the hearing record. without objection so ordered and ask unanimous consent that all members have five legislative days revise their parks. hearing no objections, the hearing is adjourned. [inaudible conversations]
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