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

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

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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