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Witness Testimony of Captain Mark Krause, USN (Ret.), Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Program Manager, Department of the Navy, U.S. Department of Defense

Good afternoon Chairwoman Herseth-Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, and Members of the Subcommittee.  I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the current status of the Post 9/11 GI Bill Chapter 33 Long Term Solution (CH 33 LTS).  My testimony will address the current status of the LTS, critical milestone completion, program challenges, requirements for legislative fixes, future updates, and the ability of the LTS to support future policy changes.

Current Status of Long Term Solution Development Program

The VA/SPAWAR CH 33 LTS Team delivered and deployed Releases 1.0 and 2.0 this year on the planned critical milestone dates.  All CH 33 Veteran Claim Examiners (VCEs) have been transitioned from the Interim Solution to the LTS to process CH 33 educational benefits claims. Since January 2010, the Team has accomplished the following:

  • Enabled the VA to deliver CH33 benefits via a centralized web-based system that implements a flexible rules-based engine.  This will allow the VA to implement future changes and enhancements to CH33 policy and legislation in a more timely and efficient manner.
  • The VA/SPAWAR Team successfully implemented Agile methodology within the VA and have established an effective, engaged, and collaborative governance process to prioritize capability development, resolve issues and make timely decisions.
  • Leveraged our Agile approach to implement additional and unplanned scope changes: Fry Amendment, Letter Generation, FY-9/10 retro-active housing rate adjustment, significant Interim Solution data errors, data conversion, switching from the planned interface with the Financial Accounting System (FAS) to the older Benefits Delivery Network (BDN), developing a user authentication solution due to the unavailability of the Benefits Enterprise Platform (BEP), and assuming an expanded role in interface development with VA legacy systems.

Over the last several months the VA/SPAWAR CH 33 LTS Team has continued to “peel back the onion” to uncover and define more detailed CH 33 LTS requirements and processes.  This discovery revealed a number of factors that increased the complexity and scope required by the LTS.  A summary of these discoveries include:

  • Automating business rules and streamlining the process to adjudicate claims were more complex than originally anticipated.
  • Converting and remediating data conversion errors from the Interim Solution into Chapter 33 LTS was more challenging than planned.
  • Enhancing existing VA systems required to provide data to the Chapter 33 LTS has proven more difficult than expected

In upcoming months LTS development will focus on providing system interfaces and capabilities to automate and streamline the claimant institution enrollment validation process as well as initiating and providing CH33 payment instructions to the Department of Treasury.

Critical Milestones

To date, all critical milestones have been met.    LTS functionality planned for each critical milestone was based on a limited understanding of the requirements 14 months ago. On a bi-weekly basis at each Sprint Review, new requirements/user stories and changes in scope were discussed and re-prioritized thru the governance process.  Since then, the CH 33 LTS Agile process has continued to better define program requirements, revealing additional technical complexities/challenges during Releases 1.0 and 2.0.

Due to the four extra weeks that were required to complete the data conversion and housing rate adjustment and the complexity of the BDN financial interface, we expect to deliver the VAONCE (VA online certification of enrollment) interface on 30 Sept for user testing, and do not anticipate delivering the complete functionality planned for Release 3.0 (automating the financial transaction/authorization process currently required to authorize payments for claims and a financial interface with BDN) until the Nov/Dec 2010 time frame.  The requirements for Release 4.0, scheduled for December 2010, are still being defined.

Future LTS Updates

Future updates to the CH 33 LTS will be determined by VA leadership.  CH 33 LTS is a rules-based system that will support future changes to the program such as the expansion of benefits, changes to payment procedures, and changes to policy and law.

Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my statement.  I am pleased to answer any questions you or any of the other members of the Subcommittee may have.