VA Plans to Digitize Vietnam Records to Support Mental Health Claims, Treatment

The Department of Veterans Affairs is hoping to process the claims for Vietnam-era veterans seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder by digitizing combat records previously kept on paper.

The VA issued a “request for information” (RFI) and announced that it wanted responses within 30 days from companies that have the resources to convert archival text files to a digital format, such as Excel. According to an article from Bloomberg News, the process of verifying events in these text files is slow and cumbersome. But verifying that same type of information for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—which are entered into a database dashboard called the Official Military Activities Report (OMAR)—can take mere minutes, Bloomberg reported. VA officials use information from OMAR to filter combat events and verify non-PTSD mental health claims.

“While the VA has relaxed its documentation requirements for post-traumatic stress disorder, other mental health claims still require verification that the stressful event likely took place,” the VA’s RFI states. “Verifying these stressors has traditionally been a long, drawn-out process requiring inquiries to the Joint Service Records Research Center, which can take up to 60 days.”

Treatment of Vietnam veterans with PTSD represents a significant workload, according to Bloomberg. There are 12 different records groups from the early 1960s onward that need to be digitized, including: Viet Cong-initiated attacks, friendly fire incidents, hostile fire against U.S. Navy ships, army base attacks, and those deemed to be terrorist incidents.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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