Beth McCoy, who oversees 14 regional offices in the center of the country, said one part of the new system would allow a VA worker processing a claim to see all the necessary information on one computer dashboard rather than toggling among eight or 10 screens.
Another aspect of the reorganization involves routing certain types of claims into specialized "lanes" to move them through with dedicated reviewers.
Finally, the new paperless claims system will allow regional offices to share information quickly with other offices or VA medical centers. A lot of the problems the GAO identified "go away -- the shipping files back and forth or between us and the hospital," said Tom Murphy, the director of the VA's compensation service. "A lot of the time that now goes to transporting files simply disappears."
The first regional offices experimented with the new system in 2010 and 2011, and by the end of 2012, 18 offices were on it. By the end of this year, all 56 regional offices are expected to be using the new system.
Regional offices that switched over the earliest basically served as guinea pigs.
"We have phone calls daily with stations that are on" the new system," McCoy said. "You fix one thing and something else comes up<k40>....<k$> We have seen a lot of improvement. The system is operating faster, more reliably."
While the GAO report said some of the VA's processing problems were outside its control, some stem from staff shortages or inefficiency:
McCoy said the GAO had reviewed the system when it was still being developed.
"We are really looking to fiscal year 2014 to turn the tide, to turn the corner, to make real gains," she said.
The VA added in a statement that the new system is "constantly evolving to meet end-user needs, business requirements and performance benchmarks."
One version of the system was released on Dec. 3, 2012, for example, but prompted concerns about its performance. Those concerns were addressed in a software patch two weeks later, and an updated version of the program deployed in late January "contained no critical defects," the VA said.