Winston-Salem, N.C. - Who could forget the images WFMY News 2 showed you last summer of files stacked up on top of filing cabinets at the Winston-Salem Department of Veterans Affairs?
Now, those stacks are gone and major changes are happening. The VA has moved 65,000 files to storage and staff members don't need step ladders to get to the paperwork.
The VA's goal is to process all claims within 125 days by the end of 2015. Last year, the timeframe averaged 243 days. This year, it's 257 days. That's right. It's taking longer.
How will the VA speed things up? Workers finished installing a new filing system last month. It allows the VA to store more files in a more organized and smaller space. Plus, the files are stored in fewer places. They used to be stored in nine different areas of the building. Now, they're in five.
"Now, when we have employees that need to find files, they are in fewer places and we'll need fewer people to be running down and locating these files," Winston-Salem Regional Director Cheryl Rawls said.
All new claims filed from December 2012 forward will be electronic. Right now, only ten percent of the claims are digital. However, the process isn't speeding up quite yet.
"We continue to stay at the same performance level, although we have made some improvements. You'll ask, 'Why is that?' That is because we have seen an increase in the number of claims we have received," Rawls said.
Essentially, the VA now has the systems in place to finally start cutting into the backlog of cases. Two systems: the electronic system for the new cases, and a more organized paper filing system for older cases. Again, the goal is to get caught up by the end of 2015.