Fort Harrison VA Medical Center

Lawrence Sweet checks into the Fort Harrison VA Medical Center with his wife Ginny on Saturday. Sweet, of Butte, travels to Helena to see Dr. James Meyer every four or five months.

Marga Lincoln, Independent Record

Montana was selected this week to carry out a pilot program that could see claims and benefits filed by veterans processed at a faster rate starting next month.

The Montana National Guard said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs selected the state as a testing ground for the Digits to Digits program, intended to allow service organizations to submit claims directly to the VA.

Joe Foster, administrator of the Montana Veterans Affairs Division, said the agreement between his organization and the VA should increase the speed at which claims are processed.

“Our service officers are highly trained, and we have the requisite infrastructure to make this transition,” Foster said. “Montana was selected for this pilot program due to (our) superior level of production and competence.”

Foster said MVAD was selected in part due to its proven success in submitting electronic-based claims. In return for testing the program, he said, the VA will expect quicker access to benefits.

Gov. Steve Bullock praised the program’s launch in Montana.

“Any program that streamlines the process for veterans to receive their hard-earned benefits is one I fully support,” Bullock said. “I also recognize the work of the MVAD staff to be selected to test this new program before it’s introduced to the rest of the nation.”

Foster said MVAD is responsible for over 75 percent of the Montana-based benefit claims submitted to the VA center at Fort Harrison.

The pilot program is scheduled to be finalized this month and begin operation in mid-December.

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