Moving Forward With its newfound discipline, the VA has rolled out Share, an application that allows regional offices to open claims files and enter supporting information; Rating Board Automation 2000, which allows VA officials to review service and medical records to determine a vets level of disability; and Award Processing, which allows staffers in regional offices to review files and approve benefit payments.The VAs health-data exchange network, meanwhile, is proving a lifesaver. VA clinicians anywhere, at any time, can see lab, pharmacy and radiological reports that combine VA and DoD records. This has proven particularly valuable when treating emergency-room patients. Now, clinicians "make faster and more-informed decisions regarding the care of veterans," said a GAO report last November. Enhanced discipline is even giving the VA more confidence in its ability to size up and tackle new projects. Now in development: a project called HealthePeople, one goal of which is the long-sought two-way exchange of health records with the DoD.
Principis goal of cutting the backlog of unprocessed claims to 250,000 has almost been met. At the end September 2003 the VA had shrunk the backlog to 253,597. Part of the reason was the VA assigned "tiger teams" of clerical staff to process the oldest claims filed by the oldest veterans. But Meagher says getting this close to the goal would not have been possible without the productivity gains that came with VetsNet.