You don’t need to look too far to hear reports of people not receiving veteran benefits—and sometimes needing to repay thousands in overpaid benefits—due to mismanaged veteran information, long processing times or lost files.
Fortunately, not all veteran services fall short of what veterans deserve. Tarrant County College District’s (TCCD) five Texas campuses process thousands of student applications for veteran benefits each semester and can teach a few lessons on processing paperwork without generating negative headlines.
Lesson 1: Don’t rely on the “paper” of paper processes.
Applications are generally paper-intensive, which can cause problems. These documents can be misfiled or lost during normal use or even destroyed. TCCD transitioned from a paper-based process to digital documents after reexamining the way it accepted supplemental information:
- Students would turn in their VA paperwork at their TCCD home campus where records would be compiled by a designated VA benefits representative.
- The representative would compile and route the student’s files to the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) for approval
- After compiling a student’s file, the VA Rep would submit the paperwork to the Registrar Office for review.
- The Registrar would either approve or reject the file.
- Rejected files sent back to the VA Rep for further attention.
- Approved files are sent through campus mail to the southeast Campus for storage.
Now, TCCD uses digital documents that can be easily and instantly routed, reviewed and processed. Even when physical documents are submitted, TCCD immediately scans the documents into a repository and returns the hard copies to the student. Digital files are immediately usable, which cuts down on the mismanagement of veteran information.
Going digital and using enterprise content management has also enabled TCCD to setup workflows that automate form processing.
“We immediately looked for ways to eliminate manual tasks that required printing already digital documents then re-imaging them,” says Nigel Parker, Director of Records Management and Archives. Now, every step from routing, review notifications, enrollment verification, form completion check and archiving is automated.
Lesson 2: Shift service focus to applicants.
While some offices across the U.S. are struggling to deliver adequate services, TCCD is acing the test and improving customer service with automated paperless processes. Students can now submit documents online or by email. Or if they prefer, they can still hand it in on campus. Documents are then immediately scanned and returned to the student.
Document collection isn’t the only stage improved by paperless processes. “Customer service has significantly improved because students can now go to any campus location where their imaged documents are electronically available for them and their advisors to review,” says Parker.
TCCD has also integrated its repository with its Student Information System to make sure that the metadata on the documents in the repository is always correct. Like with the advisors, this enables representatives to easily pull up appropriate documents whenever students have questions about the status of their benefits. Previously, representatives would have to physically retrieve files from the storage vault.
Lesson 3: Keep an eye on the budget.
The VA office isn’t exactly the shining beacon of proper budget management practices. That’s another area where it can learn from TCCD. By going paperless and instituting automated workflows, TCCD has made considerable cost savings in labor, printing and records storage:
- Processing VA record packets now takes three employees instead of ten.
- Review and approval of VA record packets now takes one employee instead of five.
- Records are processed electronically instead of manually, meaning they no longer have to be physically printed, compiled, mailed, approved, or stored.
“Conservatively speaking, just by implementing several basic workflows in the Admissions Office, the College has saved an estimated $18,507.39 during fiscal year 2013-14,” says Parker.
TCCD proved that veterans aren’t always relegated to second-hand services, and hopefully the VA office will start paying attention. If you would like to follow TCCD’s lead of delivering better services and saving costs, you can get your free eBook How to Diagram Your Business Process here.