COVID-19 Challenges Veterans Services

November 03, 2020 by Lisa Sigler

COVID-19 Challenges Veterans Services

The COVID-19 crisis created challenges for the agencies tasked with serving veterans. Some agencies have been hard-pressed to continue providing services such as the submission and processing of benefits claims as offices have closed, needs have increased, and outdated technology has been overtaxed. However, agencies with technically advanced, flexible systems have managed to continue operations smoothly.

The Need for Modernization

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses with the systems used at both the federal and state levels to process and deliver benefits to veterans. For example, U.S. Senator Martha McSally sponsored a bill on Oct. 23 to secure funds to modernize the Veterans Benefits Administration’s digital benefits platform in order to more efficiently process benefits for student veterans. “Our student veterans receiving benefits under the GI Bill have experienced disruptions to their education benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic,” McSally said. “This is largely due to an outdated IT system.”

During a panel discussion at FCM Bethesda’s 2020 Tech Summit, Jack Galvin, associate deputy assistant secretary of Office of Information and Technology at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), also discussed the importance of having technology in place to handle situations such as COVID-19, remarking that what the pandemic did was underscore the need for scalable, on-demand modernization. “Take the telework environment, for instance. We, at any given time pre-COVID, had about 45,000 workers in work-from-home status, and that quickly went up to 100,000,” he said, according to a Federal News Network item. Finding ways for these federal employees, and their state counterparts, to continue to process claims and serve veterans is an ongoing challenge.

The Benefits of Flexibility: Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs Office

The Veterans Service Representatives (VSRs) working for the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs Office (KCVAO) were likewise charged with continuing operations from their homes when COVID-19 arrived. However, KCVAO was an example of an agency that was able to handle the challenges smoothly as a result of their proactive approach to modernization. KCVAO Veteran Service Representatives (VSRs) were able to make a seamless transition from work to home, maintaining the same productivity. The ability to accept e-signatures kept cases moving. And then, when conditions in Kansas changed, the VSRs moved back into their offices seamlessly.

KCVAO was able to navigate this transition by relying on the Tyler Technologies Veterans’ Benefits solution to automate the veterans’ benefits claims process, including submitting claims VA. In fact, 95% of their form submissions are now done electronically rather than by mail, cutting 2-3 weeks off the submission time.

The Tyler Entellitrak-based case management solution is continuously configurable so it can be adapted rapidly to changing work conditions or regulatory requirements. Since their initial engagement, KCVAO has moved to a Tyler-hosted model for added flexibility. As their requirements evolve, Tyler continues to provide modernized solutions tailored to the agency’s needs.

Serving Those Who Served

Whether it is education, healthcare, vocational rehabilitation, or other benefits, our nation’s veterans have earned the services provided by federal and state agencies. Overcoming challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic requires commitment, legislative will, and modernized technology.

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