The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is harnessing technology that has succeeded in cutting the time veterans need to wait to receive disability benefits from months to minutes, according to Zach Goldfine, deputy chief technology officer at the VA.
Prior to VA’s efforts to decrease benefit wait times, Goldfine explained that if a veteran developed hypertension (high blood pressure) and applied for disability benefits, that veteran had to wait a whopping 82 days for the agency to make a decision on their application.
To tackle this issue, Goldfine said the VA was able to develop a tool called “Rapid Ready for Decision,” which utilizes programming language to look for veterans’ blood pressure readings and proactively find information relevant to hypertension. That information is then presented to VA staff to see if a decision can be made instantly relating to disability benefits.
“It’s simple, but as many of you know, simple can be hard in government,” Goldfine said during a discussion at the DocuSign Public Sector Symposium on Sept. 13. “The turnaround time for decisions went from 82 days to six days. And one of the first veterans whose application went through the new system applied in the morning, and by the end of the night, VA had already made a decision.”
“It’s not a new programming language that’s going to be the most popular programming language in the world,” he continued. “But, it is a new kind of relationship with veterans – it’s one that’s built on respect and trust.”
The typical veteran receives $1,000 each month in disability benefits, according to Goldfine. The much more rapid response time that comes with the new proactive programming language means veterans do not have to wait months to receive “a meaningful amount of money that can be really, really helpful,” he said.
“I’m just as motivated today as I was day one to get veterans their benefits in minutes, not months; for veterans to feel respected and proud when they interact with the VA; and to build the strongest benefits delivery team in the world,” Goldfine said.
Goldfine also said he wants to reach out to others who are mission-driven and passionate about modernizing government, and encouraged them to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. As he put it, “the only way we’re going to modernize government is if we bring in more people to do it together.”