Veterans Affairs Department – Now hiring 4,000 workers

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Veterans Affairs Department – Now hiring 4,000 workers

Talk about inefficiencies in government. It appears that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has performed sophisticated scanning operations for the Veterans Benefits Administration at five sites for the past two years under contracts valued at $9.7 million, said William Bosanko, an executive at NARA, in a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last week. The system NARA developed for Veterans Benefits Administration not only scans documents, but the system has been taught to recognize and compile data from 170 different forms the Veterans Benefits Administration uses. The VA’s contracts with NARA expire this week. In preparation for a follow-on contract they were quite surprised when NARA told them they would stop performing the work. So, within the next week they are to seek help from the private sector for meeting its system wide scanning requirements? Seriously?

The NA holds records on millions of veterans dating as far back as World War II. Bosanko estimated the department would have to scan 60 million pieces of paper a month so that records could be used with the Veterans Benefits Management System — a feat that would require a staff of 4,000. Ironically, he did not say how long the process could take.

However, the National Archives will continue to support VA in its current work — scanning 600,000 pieces of paper a month at five sites — and will provide expertise and insight as VA executes a new procurement, Bosanko said.

Richard Dumancas, deputy director of the American Legion’s Claims, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, said the largest concern looming over full deployment of VBMS is scanning claims in an electronic format. “As of right now, there are far more questions about this aspect of VBMS than there are answers,” he said.

“Is the VA prepared for the massive volume of scanning, with attendant optical character recognition to ensure the new electronic files are truly searchable and useful in an electronic operating environment? Which files are to be scanned? Will only new files be electronic? Will files be converted to electronic when new actions are initiated on that file? Who will provide that scanning? Will there be a scanning division set up in every regional office, or will it be centralized? Will there be hybrid files, combining electronic and paper documents, and how will those files be handled?” he asked.

“The problem with so many questions looming is there has been little in terms of a definitive response from VA as to the long-term plan that would answer these questions,” Dumancas said. “A lot of weight is riding on getting the electronic scanning portion of this system done right, so ambiguity in this area is deeply distressing.”

The VA did not respond to a query from Nextgov on how it plans to handle its massive document scanning requirements. I wonder why? Sometimes you have to scratch your head and ask if anyone is in charge here?

To read the entire article at Nextgov, please click here