By applying AI that could more quickly sort incoming claims from multiple inputs — mail, fax and electronic submissions — the Department of Veterans Affairs was able to reduce the time just sorting the claims from 10 days to about half a day, Paul Lawrence, the head of the VBA, said during the IBM Think Gov digital event, produced by FedScoop.
“We realized we had far too many people doing old-fashioned manual labor,” Lawrence said.
Veterans send in documents to the VA that pertain to the type of benefits they are eligible for and to settle disputes over services. More than 5 million veterans file claims, and the current backlog runs more than 150,000, a number that has dropped drastically in recent years.
Now that sorting times are reduced with the assistance of technology, Lawrence said the VBA is focused on other workflow challenges. He wants to reskill employees away from manual, tedious tasks and have them work with technology that can help sort and leave the complex decision making to humans. Much of the work around settling claim disputes and making decisions about benefits is not something AI has the ability to tackle.
The initial successes of technology have not solved all of the VBA’s challenges, however. The administration still takes almost 100 days to process claims on average, according to its website.
Lawrence also wants to be able to be more transparent about where claims are in the process, much like how pizza delivery services can now show customers where their orders are in the cooking and transport process, Lawrence said.
The lessons learned from using AI to improve initial processing times will stick around, he said.
“It is now something we are really proud of, we are happy to talk about how good we are,” Lawrence said.