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Artificial intelligence may help to make the VA claims filing process easier


For some veterans, the process of filing for disability benefits can be difficult, frustrating and time-consuming.

MATT CHAMPION: It was easier for me to get into Stanford than it was to receive VA benefits.


Whoa. Matt Champion is an army veteran who served in Afghanistan. He says he went through 26 in-person meetings and waited more than three years to get his first-time benefits.

MARTIN: And his brother, also a veteran, paid a company nearly $20,000 for help filing his claim.

CHAMPION: I knew there was a better way. There's a better outcome for our veterans. There's a simpler process to help do this.

FADEL: Champion's now a student in Stanford's graduate school of business. During a recent hackathon on campus, Champion's team of students came up with a way to help veterans cut through some of the red tape.

MARTIN: The vet's claim tool helps simplify the process with a chatbot. For example, applicants are shown a human body and asked to click on the part that's bothering them.

CHAMPION: Veterans know where they hurt. They don't know the words that the VA is looking for when they're looking to approve or process an application.

FADEL: So the chatbot asks applicants to simply describe what happened to them.

CHAMPION: All of this becomes conversational in both tonality and in process. You can talk directly to it.

FADEL: For example...

CHAMPION: I hurt my back jumping out of an aircraft in Afghanistan in 2005. It was witnessed by three individuals. I have medical records to support this.

FADEL: The AI tool takes the replies and turns them into VA-acceptable language.

CHAMPION: They fought for their country. They shouldn't have to fight with their country to get the benefits that they've earned and deserve.

MARTIN: When asked about the new AI tool, the Department of Veterans Affairs told us in a statement that they evaluate every disability claim individually and that they are working to improve the process. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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