Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) can now submit and view claims online through a new portal launched by the Veterans Administration.
The new Stakeholder Enterprise Portal (SEP), rolled out by the VA in October 2012, enables VSOs to submit claims and supporting documents without having to print or submit paper-based forms. VA also hopes the system will reduce claims processing time.
“It’s secure, and it’s available anywhere,” said James Fischl, associate director of field services and operations at Paralyzed Veterans of America. “It used to be that you had to be in a VA office on a VA network. Now, you don’t have to be on a VA network.”
More specifically, SEP allows VSOs to: submit compensation claims (526E), view status of claims, see payment history and details, accept/reject a Power of Attorney and view their own VSO dashboard, according to information provided by the VA. In the future, VA hopes to also enable VSOs to update veteran address information, upload supporting documents and check the status of death benefits.
The SEP program is one of several efforts the VA is making to speed up its claims processing and reduce an outstanding backlog of claims. VA Secretary Erik Shinseki has pledged to eliminate the backlog and process all outstanding claims within 125 days and with 98 percent accuracy by 2015.
“The SEP will accelerate claims processing in a big way,” said Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and CraigConnects.org. “It’s like TurboTax for vets who feel comfortable with web-based systems. For VSOs doing complex returns, it’s kind of like the systems CPAs use to work with the IRS. Getting rid of paper really helps.”
VSOs can log into the SEP program in two ways: through a Personal Identity Verification, or PIV, card and appropriate card reader, or through a credentialing process. The credentialing process enables users to login using their username and password, after which a six-digit code is sent to their cell phone via text message. Once that six-digit code is entered and accepted into the system, VSOs can access SEP to submit and view claims.
VSOs are the first set of VA partners to have access to the portal. Later, VA will open up access to other business partners, such as education providers, doctors, attorneys, loan appraisers and benefit providers.
Fischl said he has been working with the VA in an effort to set up the appropriate training and answer any questions for Paralyzed Veterans' offices. “We do have many offices that are behind the curve and are not involved in the [SEP] yet,” Fischl said. “VA is still working out the bugs, but the time is coming when this will be the way things get done. The potential is there, and I think it’s going to work quite well.”
For more information on the SEP program, click here.
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Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.