New claims cards curb fraud
May 28, 2009
BAGHDAD- Soldiers from the 450th Civil Affairs (CA) Battalion, attached to 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, will introduce new claims cards in north Baghdad on May 25 as part of an effort to eliminate fraudulent claims and decrease time required to issue payments.
The claims card is a small piece of paper given to citizens in the event that Coalition forces cause damage to property or injuries during operations. Upon receiving the card, claimants compile a packet consisting of the card and supporting documentation which is then submitted to a CA team. The claim is then reviewed and submitted to the brigade commander for review and payment.
The new cards are being introduced as part of a project to phase out a system that was susceptible to fraud. The old cards could be easily reproduced by simple home copiers or scanners. Accountability proved to be an issue because there was not a method to track the cards. As a result it was possible for legitimate claims to be turned away or fraudulent claims to receive payment.
The new system, designed by Soldiers from the 450th CA Bn., integrates several new features aimed at minimizing fraudulent claims. New cards will possess a tracking number located on the upper right hand corner of the card. When a Soldier issues the card the number will be recorded along with the recipient's name and a brief synopsis of the incident leading to the distribution of the card. The issuing unit will then forward the documentation to CA teams that use the information to identify legitimate claims as they are filed. The new tracking system ensures accountability on the part of both claimant and Coalition forces.
"We hope the new claims cards will streamline the process so packets can be processed quickly," explained Navy Master Chief Lewis Hymon, of the 450th CA Bn. "A packet with a verifiable claims card will help us decide which ones are real and which ones aren't."
The number of overall claims is expected to decrease as fewer fraudulent claims will be submitted. Citizens that submit copied versions of the claim cards as part of a condolence package can easily be identified and turned away which will result in quicker processing and payment for legitimate claims.
"The tracking number ensures that only claimants that have legitimate issues submit packets," explained Hymon. "About fifty to sixty claims are sent to the commander per week. Those deemed false are asked for additional documentation or simply turned away."
Under current conditions, many of the claims packets do not have claims cards. As a result civil affairs Soldiers spend much of their time determining which claims are fraudulent. Some packets are also incomplete which stalls the application process. Depending on the type of claim, citizens are expected to submit photos of damaged property, estimates for repair, doctor bills, x-rays, and death certificates. The absence of any required documentation can halt the claim.
"It's not good for anyone, especially locals, if too many fraudulent claims are submitted," said Hymon. "We don't want to turn legitimate claims away, but that's a risk and it may happen if fraud continues to grow. That's why we need to take care of this problem."
Civil affairs Soldiers intend to pass along their experience to other groups handling claims throughout Iraq in an attempt to standardize the claims process for Coalition forces.
"We are going to push this system out for everyone to use," said Hymon. "If everyone uses the same system it makes for seamless transitions as units come and go."
In the past criminals have tried, and on occasion succeeded, at processing false claims at different locations throughout the country. Due to the current tracking system some have received multiple payments.
"By bringing everyone online with the same system we will prevent fraud throughout Iraq," explained Hymon. "If everyone uses the same system we can see the claims that are filed through the entire country."
Plans for the addition of electronic bar codes may be implemented at a later date; a change that may prove to be vital as pressure to tighten budgets and curb spending increases. The new system, along with future changes, should reduce spending which commanders and tax payers may enjoy.
Editors Note: This new claim card system is planned for the 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. area of operations only. Units with questions or concerns over claim card procedures should always check with their civil affairs representatives or their chain of command.