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Last updated: February 18. 2014 8:24PM - 218 Views
Thomas Crips Contributing Columnist



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Later this year, the Defense Department will begin fully enforcing a previously optional policy regarding the reissuance of lost or stolen common access cards, a defense official said here today. Sam Yousef, a program manager for identity and benefits policy at the Defense Human Resources Activity, discussed an update to the current CAC issuance policy during an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.


“Beginning in late March [or] early April of this year, we are going to begin fully enforcing current common access card policy, which will require individuals to bring supporting documentation if they have had their ID cards lost or stolen,” he said. “If you have your card lost or stolen, you should work with your local security office or the individual sponsoring you for that ID card.”


People requesting a replacement card will need to produce a document on component or agency letterhead that explains that the card has been lost or stolen, he added. Yousef noted the document should be signed, and individuals must bring it with them to have a new card issued.


“If the card has been stolen, they may also bring in the police report that accounts for that,” he added. “This will not only get the department in full compliance with our policy, but it will also create better accountability for individuals who have had their cards lost or stolen.”


Though this has been a part of the current policy, Yousef noted, it was not mandated at CAC card-issuing locations.


“Previously, in the last couple of years, we have actually updated the system to capture this documentation on an optional basis,” he said. “So what will happen in late March [or] early April is it will be required as part of that reissuance to bring supporting documentation with you.”


The supporting documentation will be scanned and stored in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, he added. This will affect all common access card-eligible individuals, both military and civilian, Yousef said.


In addition to being an additional security precaution, Yousef said this measure will help to prevent people from replacing their cards just as a matter of personal convenience.


“It creates better awareness with our local security offices [and] our individuals that are sponsoring our contractors for common access cards,” he said. “So this way, they have full oversight if someone is losing multiple ID cards.”


Following the update in requirements this spring, Yousef emphasized, it will be important for people to ensure they bring this documentation with them to have a card reissued, noting that most ID card-issuing sites already have been requiring it for quite some time.


Backlog update


The government’s effort to cut a backlog of pending compensation claims for veterans has stalled at about 400,000 cases, and steps are needed to understand what isn’t working to solve the problem, says a group representing recent war veterans.


In a report (http://iava.org/battle-end-va-backlog) released Feb. 3, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) group recommends several ways it says will speed up claim processing, many of the ideas already supported and sought by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


The VA called the report part of its continued collaboration with veterans groups and said it continues working aggressively to try to end the backlog in 2015.


“We have made strong progress, and we know there is more work to do,” said Drew Brookie, VA press secretary.


By March last year, the VA had fallen behind in processing more than 600,000 claims by veterans seeking compensation for service-related medical problems.


During a period of intense criticism that followed, the department launched an array of initiatives. They included mandatory overtime for claims processors, installing an automated processing system and tackling the oldest cases first. Within eight months, the VA pared the backlog by more than a third to about 400,000 cases. Claims processing is considered to be taking too long and a case backlogged if it is pending for more than 125 days, according to the VA.


The government shutdown on Oct. 1 had some limited impact on improvements, the VA said. But afterward, the number of delayed cases continued to fall slightly in November and December before increasing to just more than 400,000 in January, according to VA data.


“We’re concerned that these initiatives (to end the backlog) aren’t sufficiently tracked in terms of cost and benefit,” said Tom Tarantino, a former Army captain and Iraq War veteran who is IAVA chief policy officer. “What that leads to is a lack of clarity as to whether they (the VA) can get rid of the backlog.”


A key IAVA success last year was collaborating with comedian Jon Stewart, whose Daily Show subsequently focused considerable attention and satire on the backlog problem, lampooning the VA regularly.


“It speaks to their talent on the show that they could make something this serious both funny and accessible to the public,” Tarantino said.


His group’s 36-page report makes several recommendations, including:


Measuring the success and making public the results of efforts such as expediting older cases, training processors to be more efficient and accurate, or pushing to more quickly gather veteran records from private doctors and other federal agencies.


Urging Congress to pass laws to move processing things faster by, for example, requiring agencies such as the Pentagon and the Social Security Administration to provide necessary veteran health records more quickly.


Changing rules to require veterans to file a more complete, computerized claim form to further speed processing. This request for a standardized claim form, while supported by the VA, is opposed by other veterans groups who say it could frustrate veterans who are computer-illiterate and reduce their retroactive compensation.


IAVA also urges the VA to learn from past mistakes by anticipating the impact of new and expanded benefits.


A VA decision in 2010, widely heralded by veterans groups, to expand benefits for Vietnam veterans suffering PTSD or hurt by Agent Orange led to more compensation claims filed.


“The move was a welcome step, yet the VA failed to plan for the impact it would have on the disability claims system,” the IAVA report says.


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