Shinseki said the VA must use information technology to handle the rise in undecided benefits claims.
“This year, we are programmed to receive somewhere between 1.4 million and 1.5 million claims,” said Shinseki, who added that the growth also “is tied in part to the economic downturn. The numbers are large, and merely hiring more claims processors won't give us an added capability to dominate this kind of growth pattern. We must automate, and we must do it quickly.”
Shinseki, a retired four-star Army general, said that 8.4 million veterans are now receiving healthcare and other VA benefits, a number expected to reach 8.6 million next year.
President Barack Obama proposed a record $132 billion budget (PDF) for the VA for 2012, up 10.6%, of which $53.9 billion is for medical care. The VA runs 153 hospitals and more than 700 clinics.
Other VA budget items include $3.1 billion for IT infrastructure, workforce and modernized IT systems; $148 million for a paperless claims-processing system and $70 million toward development of Obama's proposed Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record system tying Defense Department and VA healthcare records systems into a seamless longitudinal record.