WASHINGTON (Oct. 26, 2010) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has
released three new disability benefits questionnaires for physicians of
Veterans applying for VA disability compensation benefits. This
initiative marks the beginning of a major reform of the physicians'
guides and automated routines that will streamline the claims process
for injured or ill Veterans.
"This is a major step in the transformation of VA's business processes
that is yielding improvements for Veterans as we move to eliminate the
disability claims backlog by 2015," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Eric K. Shinseki.
These new questionnaires are the first of 79 disability benefits
questionnaires that will guide Veterans' personal physicians, as well as
VA physicians, in the evaluation of the most frequent medical
conditions affecting Veterans.
Accurate and timely medical evaluations are a critical element of VA's
continued commitment to high-quality and prompt decisions about the
nature and degree of conditions afflicting Veterans. Streamlining this
process by directly involving Veterans' treating physicians in providing
specific information needed to evaluate their claims will lead to
completeness in the examination and faster compensation decisions.
VA's goal is to process all claims in fewer than 125 days with a
decision quality rate no lower than 98 percent, a mark Secretary
Shinseki has mandated by 2015. The physician questionnaire project is
one of more than three dozen initiatives actively underway at VA,
including a major technology modernization that will lead to paperless
The disability benefits questionnaires are part of VA's automated health
records system which prompts VA physicians conducting disability
examinations to include precise information in a standardized way to
assist claims adjudicators in ensuring
Veterans receive the benefits they deserve as quickly as possible.
These VA examination results are electronically available to claims
adjudicators in VA regional offices.
For Veterans who receive their care from private physicians, VA has
placed the disability benefits questionnaires on its Internet site
(http://www.vba.va.gov/disabilityexams) with instructions for physicians
to submit examination results on Veterans' behalf.
The first three questionnaires cover B-cell leukemia (such as hairy-cell
leukemia), Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease. VA recently
published a final regulation to be implemented Oct. 30 that will
establish the presumption of eligibility to VA disability compensation
benefits for Veterans with one of these three conditions who were
exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide agent used extensively in Vietnam.
In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war who
have a "presumed" illness do not have to prove an association between
their illnesses and their military service. This "presumption"
establishes eligibility to VA compensation if their condition is
disabling to a compensable level.