The Systematic Technical Accuracy Review Program Has Not Adequately Identified and Corrected Claims-Processing Deficiencies

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07/21/2020 08:00 PM EDT

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviewed the Systematic Technical Accuracy Review (STAR) program, which helps the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) provide timely and accurate disability compensation benefits to veterans and their beneficiaries. VBA’s STAR analysts perform quality reviews on randomly selected claims for disability compensation to identify errors and deficiencies in how claims were processed and to provide feedback to personnel to improve decision-making. The OIG review team examined whether STAR staff conducted accurate quality reviews of claims decisions, had adequate procedures to ensure corrective actions were timely and correct, and provided feedback to managers and staff to improve decision-making. The OIG found that STAR analysts were generally identifying benefit entitlement errors but not placing as much emphasis on finding procedural deficiencies. The OIG team determined there was no formal secondary review process for procedural deficiencies. An estimated 55 percent of claims had deficiencies (including benefit entitlement errors that could affect veterans’ disability compensation payments) and procedural deficiencies (such as veterans having to report for an unnecessary medical examination). Problems were also noted with the process for correcting errors that resulted in untimely and inaccurate actions, as well as with outdated or inaccessible feedback from reviews that did not enhance the quality of claims decisions. The OIG made six recommendations for ensuring STAR analysts follow the quality review checklist. Improvements to the second senior review process were also recommended for both analyst-identified deficiencies and to scan for errors missed by analysts, as well as advancing the processes to correct errors. In addition, VBA was called on to assess the training requirements for STAR staff; establish adequate policies, procedures, and monitoring to ensure corrections are completed timely and accurately; and to develop a plan to provide quality review data and feedback to assist managers in improving decision-making on claims.

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