VA- Chapter 33

VA system speeds up Veterans' access to education benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides patient care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents. In June 2008, the United States Congress passed the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. This legislation updates GI Bill provisions and amends Title 38 U.S.C. to establish a program of educational assistance for members of the armed forces who served on or after September 11, 2001. The resulting Chapter 33 (CH33) Program Office, administered by VA, provides educational benefits that can be applied for college undergraduate and graduate level degree programs, vocational training, technical and professional certification courses and one-time certification examinations. Education benefits may be transferred from the qualifying service member to a qualifying dependent or spouse. The VA serves more than nine million veterans each year.

The Challenge

Numerous and sometimes complex layered rules determined the level of eligibility of service members or qualifying dependent/spouse for educational benefits. A new team of approximately 750 claims processors was assembled to review the details of each claim, determine eligibility levels which sometimes required researching information in numerous VA and Department of Defense (DOD) systems, obtain clarification for incomplete or incorrect claims, make a final eligibility determination, and process the claim for payment. The manual process, combined with the large influx of applications resulted in a tremendous claims backlog. As the backlog grew, the time it took for a Veteran to receive their educational benefits became so long that recipients were being dropped from class before a payment could be issued. Additionally, Congress has amended CH 33 benefits several times, sometimes requiring retraining of the claims processors, requiring additional information from the applying service member resulting in further increases to the backlog and delays in processing educational benefits.

The Solution

To reduce the backlog of claims, the VA chartered and approved a paperless system called the Chapter 33 (CH 33) Long Term Solution (LTS) system to automate determination of eligibility, entitlement, and benefits levels for VA Education Benefits. Geocent was a key member of the team to develop the CH 33 LTS and used a Scrum/Agile approach to the development of the application. The CH 33 LTS system was developed utilizing service-oriented architecture and rules based technology to automate claims processing. This rules-based technology allowed for flexibility within the system to accommodate ongoing legislative and business process changes. Utilizing test driven Agile development and a Continuous Integration environment, Geocent managed over 2,700 automated integration and regression tests. The CH 33 system interfaced with numerous other VA and DOD systems to validate information, and assist the claims processors with rapid processing and payment of claims.

Technologies Used

Windows Server
RedHat Linux Enterprise Server
IBM Operational Decision Manager
Whitestein Living Systems Process Suite (LSPS)
Oracle DB
Apache Maven
Jasper Reports

Geocent implemented automated health checks and recovery systems that increased daily system throughput and stability.

From the Client

“Every Veteran who has received CH33 educational benefits on your watch has you to thank for expediting it. Your legacy will live on as future claim submissions pass through your code educating another generation of Veterans. Speaking as a Veteran myself—thank you.”
– CH33 IT Project Manager

The Outcome

The CH 33 LTS system assists over 750 claims processors with nearly 10,000 claims processed daily. The system now averages nearly 55% fully automated daily claim throughput, allowing timely delivery of veterans’ education benefits.