Veterans Benefits Administration
Site Visit Report
Monday, May 11, 1999

Dorothy Mackay
Dennis Thomas
Kerrie Witty
Kim Graves
Dennis Douglass
Steve Wurtz

Overall Organization Information

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is comprised of 3 organizational elements:

  1. Veterans’ Health Administration
  2. National Cemetery Administration
  3. Veterans’ Benefits Administration
  • Compensation – monthly payments to veterans for disabilities related to military service, compensation to dependents in event of veteran’s death
  • Pension – monthly payments to veterans or surviving dependents (income based)
  • Education – for service members, veterans after separation from service and active reservists
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Counseling rehabilitation services to help disabled veterans obtain and keep employment or for severely disabled veterans to gain a level of independence in their daily living.
  • Housing – help veterans with credit assistance
  • Insurance – life insurance for service members and veterans

There are 57 regional offices.

There are 9 service delivery networks –SDN’s - to accomplish the mission & goals recently created.

Establishing a Balanced Set of Measures

  • In 1980s-90s the Philadelphia office started using TQM and was very active in its use.
  • Mr. Joseph Thompson (current Under Secretary for Benefits) was involved there – he then moved to the NY office where GPRA brought about the Balanced Scorecard concept.
  • They expanded stakeholder involvement - beyond OMB and Congress
  • GPRA was a major part of the original impetus for establishing a BSC
  • The NY office was a NPR Reinvention Lab. The NY office provided the skeleton of basic measures that VBA modified and now uses.
  • Senior officials, staff managers, line managers, customers (indirectly), stakeholders, employees, labor partnerships, and contractors were all involved in developing the BSC.VBA has a balanced scorecard consistent with the basic framework of Norton & Kaplan. Although some of the measures are still in development, VBA has the four basic categories of measures – financial (unit cost), internal (timeliness and accuracy), customer satisfaction and learning and growth (employee development). VBA is working on outcome measures required by GPRA to add to the balanced scorecard.) Their measurement areas are:
    • Accuracy
    • Timeliness (Speed)
    • Customer Satisfaction
    • Unit Cost or Cost-per-claim
    • Employee satisfaction & development
  • The employee development measures were the most difficult to develop and they are still working on these
  • The unions were involved in developing the measures – they always have an interest in education issues for employees
  • In the Education program area, they may have the first fully developed employee measure. They developed a skills matrix in NY which VBA now uses as a model for development of a skills matrix for all VBA employees. The score for employee development is determined by the number of employees that have the skills the organization needs to deliver service.
  • VA had a Department-wide employee survey in 1997. VBA is doing an internal survey for employees this year and will use the Department-wide one as a baseline.
  • The Education program’s measures were more natural and easy to develop
  • VBA formed a GPRA Steering Committee.
  • Business plans are developed for each one of the business lines and began integrating the budget into these plans
  • Mr. Thompson became the Under Secretary at VBA and a road map for change was developed
  • In Dec. 1997, Mr. Thompson conducted a series of planning sessions
  • Generally, old measures were internal and did not consider customer satisfaction
  • In Jan. 1998,– a Road Map to Excellence was developed and a BSC Team was formed
  • A Data Management Office was formed (6/98)

Establishing Accountability

  • The Executive appraisal system is linked to the BSC and there will be a 360 degree review process

Measuring Performance – Data Collection and Reporting

  • The performance information used to be emailed to the field offices
  • Now, they use the Intranet (created late summer 1998, started using Nov. 1998) to ensure that everyone has access to a consistent set of information
  • The SDNs use the Intranet and the performance information on the balanced scorecard for management
  • The Department does not use the performance information on the Intranet as a grading tool
  • Source data for each measure is included on the Intranet site
  • The data is very visible and is available to all employees
  • Currently, data warehouse technology is used to gather data and generate the balanced scorecard and supporting reports. This feature will be enhanced to allow users to query directly against the data warehouse to generate ad hoc queries and reports. It is expected that this functionality will be available in the next 60 – 90 days.
  • They want to make the data collection automatic – but are not quite there yet. Right now, there is a lot of room for errors. Each month, they double check the data to be released for any errors
  • The public does not see the VBA BSC; however it is available to employees on the intranet and the measures are available to the general public through the Department Annual Performance Plan.

Analyzing and Reviewing Performance Data

  • The Data Management Office (DMO) is responsible for collecting and compiling the data, and for producing and publishing the balanced scorecard. The DMO, business lines and Office of Field Operations work in partnership to analyzes the data.

Evaluating and Utilizing Performance Information and Reporting it to Customers & Stakeholders

  • FY 1999 is the first year the BSC has been used. It is a big transition year.
  • 39 of the 66 measures have data and are being tracked.
  • Regional offices track the BSC at their level (SDN’s, RO’s and divisions in RO’s) and some tracking is also done below that level (at the team level). Some offices are more advanced than others.
  • Every six weeks to two months VBA leadership meets to review the BSC at each level (national, regional, SDN, regional offices.)
  • SDNs meet at least quarterly to discuss their performance.
  • Last month, there was a BSC Summit to have mid-term review and input from the field stations. The 67 issues and proposed solutions gathered from this summit was aggregated by the Data Mgmt. Office into 4 areas:
    1. Administrative Issues
    2. Field Issues/Concerns
    3. Service/business line Issues/Concerns
    4. Completing the TBD items on the balanced scorecards

Linkages Between the Strategic Plan and Resource Allocation

  • Each of the balanced scorecard strategic objectives are contained in the business line plans and VBA has integrated its business line plans with its budget submission. Therefore, all scorecard measures are linked to our resource request. VBA readily admits that the linking of resources directly with the performance objectives on the scorecards are in the early stages. They believe they need more experience with the scorecard and performance budgeting before a more direct link between scorecard performance and resources is possible.)
  • In general, resources need to be more closely tied to performance. This is a big issue government-wide.
  • The BSC is focused on service activities. There are two budgets in VBA –
    1. General Operations – people, equipment, service delivery administration of benefits
    2. Benefits – money paid directly to a veteran or family member – this has program outcomes and is politically sensitive – many of these programs are very complicated and old and it is difficult to identify outcomes – so last year they created interim program outcomes
  • VA received some appropriations funds last year for program evaluation – but not enough to do any comprehensive evaluation
  • A Headquarters Redesign Team was formed.

Benchmarking – Best Practices – Lessons Learned

  • In the Insurance program area, they are very much like a commercial company, so they have benchmarked with similar insurance companies and organizations such as LOMA (Life Office Management Association). They also use some NPR suggested benchmark for standards.
  • They benchmarked in several areas – telephone times, money to beneficiaries (disbursements)
  • Insurance does monthly surveys
  • VBA is developing a website to share best practices
  • What lessons learned should we include in our Balanced Set of Measures report that will compel others?
  • The customer demands measuring performance
  • The BSC allows better measurement against private industry
  • The BSC leads to more collaboration in the whole organization
  • The BSC forces a more holistic view of your work
  • The BSC provides a clear message to the field from HQ
  • The BSC allows easy view of your progress
  • Strong senior leadership was key in VBA’s development of the BSC.

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