- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas veterans’ benefit claims are being processed 60 percent faster than four years ago thanks to the initiatives taken by the local Department of Veterans Affairs benefits branch, according to officials.

The federal VA’s Little Rock Regional Benefit Office in North Little Rock now takes 97 days to process a new claim, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2q2Lu0o ) reported. In 2013, the office took 250 days to process a new claim.

The initiatives the branch implemented over the past four years include digitizing claims records, creating a special project team to solve system issues and helping veterans resolve their cases remotely by using videoconferencing.

The benefit office hopes to scan all paper claims records by the end of 2018. It also has been granted permission to hire 35 additional claims workers.

“Our Little Rock VA Regional Office has been in the forefront of going digital and working in a paperless environment,” said Sandra Flint, continental district director for the Veterans Benefits Administration. “The result has been a more efficient and effective claims adjudication process.”

Flint said modernizing the process is among the ways the VA is trying to create a better experience for veterans interacting with the federal agency.

The local office’s efforts to modernize have saved money by digitizing records, which also makes them easier to locate, said Lisa Breun, director of the regional office.

Breun, who took charge of the regional benefit office five years ago, said the staff’s passion for assisting veterans is a big reason for the branch’s success.

“We’re always willing to put our hand up and try new things for our veterans,” Breun said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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