Half-Billion Dollar Gee-Whiz VA Benefits Processing Software Program is Kaput

The $500 million-plus software program that was supposed to eliminate the stubborn VA benefits backlog, the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), has been taken offline for “troubleshooting,” according to internal VA documents.

VBMS is supposed to transform the VA benefits administration process by converting to a paperless system. It is the lynchpin of the VA’s efforts to meet Secretary Erik Shinseki’s goal of eliminating the backlog by 2015 and bringing the average waiting time for veterans to receive benefits down to 125 days.

According to an internal document obtained by the website VAWatchdog.org, the system was causing VA claims processors to experience timeout errors and long latency periods. The errors sometimes even caused the system to boot processors from the system. The whole system has been taken offline. As of this writing, technicians could not provide an estimated time of resolution.

VA workers have been instructed to go back to the old input system that contributed to the backlog in the first place.

A VA spokesperson minimized the problems with the system, saying occasional glitches were “to be expected” during a rollout of a computer software backbone like this one. As the Stars & Stripes reports, the two top technology officers at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Chief Technology Officer and the Chief Information Officer, resigned earlier this year. Their resignations came after members of Congress from both parties excoriated the VA last February for abandoning a planned integrated health record system that would coordinate health information between the VA and the DoD. Said Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), “Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), ranking member of the House committee, said: “This is a huge setback and completely unacceptable. For years we have been told by both agencies that progress was made and that things were on track.  I’m disappointed that our nation’s two largest government agencies – one of which is the world’s foremost developer of high-tech machines and cyber-systems – could not come together on something that would have been so beneficial to those that served. We have just witnessed hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain.”

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