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Database access proves beneficial to Veterans Office

Veterans Service Officer Angie Gilley feels that having website access is a big benefit to her clients
It has been one year since Crook County Veterans Service Officer Angie Gilley gained access to the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) computer system.
   Gilley noted on Wednesday that she has seen a large increase in claims and success in filing claims for veterans.
   When Gilley first received her training to get accredited as a Veterans Service Officer, she received a log-in and password but couldn’t get access to the database at the VA website.
   “One of the privileges of becoming accredited was having access to the data base,” said Gilley.
   Becoming a veteran’s service officer takes a great deal of education and time to earn.
   She noted that although there has been an increase in claims, there is not necessarily a correlation between that number and the website access. There are, however, benefits to being able to access the website for her clients.
   “There are a couple of different advantages to having access to that (VA website),” said Gilley.
   One of the benefits is being able to track what the federal Veteran’s office has in their file on a veteran, and where that process is currently at. She said that she can go on the website and see if a particular document has been entered into the system, and this saves time and redundancy. This is contingent, however, on whether the Veteran’s office has put the documentation into their database to begin with.
   She added that some of the specific items contained in the database include decision ratings, evidence used in a specific decision, and medical evidence. Gilley said that she can look for discrepancies and missing documents or medical exams so they can use that information to reopen or dispute a case.
   When a veteran submits a claim to the Veteran’s Administration, they must undergo a Compensation and Pension Exam. Gilley explained that a medical examination has to be done, and the doctor determines if the condition happened in the military service or was a pre-existing condition that was aggravated by their service in the military. The percentage of disability is the determining factor on how much the veteran will receive in disability compensation.
   Gilley said that the date the claim is filed is the effective date used for retroactive monies. Because it can take as long as one year to make a determination on any claim, the time that it takes is then retroactive to that claim date. In 2008/2009, there were 15 new claims filed.
   “This was right after I took over the position,” said Gilley.
   The following fiscal year, in 2009/2010, there were 101 claims filed. The past fiscal year had 95.
   “What this really shows us is that we are definitely increasing the amount of claims that we file (new claims), and?we are definitely increasing in the amount of retroactive monies.”
   She noted that there have to be claims in the system through the VA to be rated. The more open claims that are in the system to be rated and decided, the more retroactive monies will be awarded from year to year.
   Gilley reported that the amount of retroactive money collected for local veterans more than doubled in the 2010/2011 fiscal year.
   She emphasized that the data base is only as good as what is put into it. Gilley said that they use the database as a way of tracking what the Federal VA has in the way of paperwork and documents that are used to determine a claim. Without the website, there is not a way to see if a specific piece of documentation is missing or get a true picture of the status of a claim.
    “For us, the biggest gain in being able to log into that database is to see the status of a client’s claim with the federal VA, and the paperwork that they have received.”
   She added that it is also valuable to be able to look at medical information for a client and what they are using to determine a disability claim or pension.
   “Those are big pluses.”