By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2014 – A new initiative between the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments has produced technology to help VA expedite disability claim decisions, a Defense Health Agency senior official told a House panel yesterday.
The technology allows quick access to a disability claimant’s complete electronic medical record, Army Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Richard Thomas, DHA’s director of health care operations and chief medical officer, told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s disability assistance and memorial affairs subcommittee.
“Just last month, [the agencies met] the commitment to make certified, complete electronic [DOD service treatment records] available in support of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s transition to a fully digital environment for claims processing,” Thomas said.
The medical records are available to VBA for service member claimants who have separated from the military as of Jan. 1, through an electronic repository called the Health Artifact and Image Management Solution, or HAIMS, Thomas said.
“Working closely with our VA partners, DOD established a tiger team of experts to plan and develop the required secure system interface that will allow the VA to query the HAIMS repository for [medical records],” he said.
The HAIMS repository produces a digitized record that includes scanned and existing digital content from a service member’s DOD electronic health record, which VA retrieves, Thomas noted.
When a separated service member or veteran files a claim, a VBA claims adjudicator sets up a claim in the Veterans Benefit Management System, which makes an automated request for the record, he said.
“The process … is probably the most important contribution that DOD makes to the VA’s effort [to] expedite the claims processing for our veterans by providing VA with the complete certified electronic [DOD service treatment records] at the point of a service member’s separation,” Thomas said, adding that “DOD helps the claims adjudicators have the military service-related health care evidence needed to adjudicate a VA disability claim.”
Thomas added that DOD officials are “pleased with the successful and ongoing collaboration with our VA colleagues to deliver this new service to our veterans.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkAFPS)
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