Segmented Lanes is a new process that has been implemented at 16 VA regional offices, and will be adopted by all VA regional offices throughout 2013. When a veteran files a claim or sends evidence to support their claim, the VA’s Intake Processing Centers will now sort that claim into one of three Segmented Lanes:
- Core, or
- Special Operations.
Separating claims immediately allows Veterans Benefit Advisors to identify (at the earliest possible point) any Veteran who requires expedited handling. Expedited cases include any Veteran experiencing financial hardship, a homeless Veteran, a Veteran over the age of 75 or a Veteran who has a terminal illness.
The goal of Segmented Lanes is to help get benefit claims processed faster by placing each claim immediately in the hands of the right processor. Doing so will increases processing accuracy because it “standardizes” the process across all of the VA regional offices. This means that a claim submitted at the New Orleans Regional Office will be processed in the same manner as a claim submitted to the Salt Lake City Regional Office.
The lanes break down like this:
- Express Lane: This lane is for claims that have one or two contentions, or fully developed claims (read more about FDCs below). An example would be if a Veteran files for an increase in compensation for a back issue and is also seeking to have her left hip condition service connected.
- Core Lane: claims that have three or more contentions, or any claim that does not meet the criteria for the Express or Special Operations Lanes.
- Special Operations: All claims that require special handling because of their nature (examples are Post Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with Military Sexual Trauma, former Prisoners of War, Traumatic Brain Injury).
Each lane has a dedicated claims processors whose skills and expertise match the lane to which they are assigned. This is how VA will process claims more quickly and more accurately. While no claim is the same, certain aspects of processing are alike. Assigning processors dedicated to working similar claims will speed up the process and increase the quality of the determination.
Veterans Service Officer Catherine Trombley said,
“When I worked at the [Board of Veterans Appeals], I often worked several claims in a row for disorders that resulted from a Military Sexual Trauma because some of the same regulations applied to those claims (like rating criteria), even though the claims themselves varied dramatically. Not having to refer to different parts of the regulations saved time, but I also became really good at claims resulting from MST. If I worked at a regional office today, I would probably be in the Special Operations lane.
Another way the lanes are ensuring speed and quality is through the Fully Developed Claims .program. Fully Developed Claims (FDCs) are assured faster processing because the Veteran certifies at the time they submit the claim that he or she has provided all evidence. That certification allows VA to move immediately forward on processing, without waiting the mandatory waiting period for the Veteran to submit evidence.
Veterans can opt to file an “informal claim” stating they intend to file a claim for benefits using the FDC program. Doing so will allow the veteran to preserve an effective date while giving them sufficient time to collect evidence. The VA has assigned these claims to the Express lane, which expedites a determination to an average of 100 days.
Both Segmented Lanes and Fully Developed Claims processing are part of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Transformation Plan to standardize and speed up processing by 2015. Veteran Service Organizations are available to help Veterans, their families and survivors file claims using both the traditional process and the Fully Developed Claims process. They provide this service whether you are a member or non-member. Let them help you.
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- VA Program to Bring Specialty Care to Veterans in Rural Areas (healthcareitnews.com)