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Air Force claims center proves efficient

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One year after opening the Air Force Claims Service Center near Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Air Force leaders are proud to announce its successes in handling legal claims for all Airmen.

Not only are Airmen paid quickly under the new system, that money is recovered from negligent moving companies at a higher rate with the new centralized system.

"Because the center assumed responsibility for administratively offsetting contract payments to carriers who refuse to pay damage claims, the center wields a big hammer," said Maj. Gen. Jack Rives, Air Force Judge Advocate here at the Pentagon. "Previously, each legal office had to deal with carriers on their own, without the ability to offset contract payments to carriers when the carrier refused to pay a valid claim. Now, the center speaks with one voice."

The result? About 96 percent of all claims asserted against moving companies are recovered.

It's just the outcome Air Force leaders expected when the center opened near Dayton, Ohio in March 2007. Built to consolidate the adjudication of claims that had been filed by Airmen at 92 locations worldwide, the center centralizes Airmen's filing by allowing 24/7 access to a Web page and call center.

The carrier recovery rates, or the ratio of payments from carriers to the amount asserted by the Air Force, improved, in addition to making claims payments to Airmen seven times faster through its online system. The rate was 82 percent the year before the center opened.

All of this falls in line with the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21 century concept of transforming the old paperwork-centric process of filing claims. Now, the process is available online, day or night.

General Rives said the center was a cornerstone of the Judge Advocate General Corps 21 program, which, in conjunction with AFSO 21, focuses on transforming legal operations to better meet Air Force requirements. The center is projected to save the Air Force $60 million over its first ten years of operation. The consolidation returned more than 200 personnel slots back to the Air Force to be reallocated and support recapitalization efforts.

A key enabler for fast processing and payment of claims was forged from the close partnership between JAG Corps and Defense Finance and Accounting Service experts, who focused early on to streamline the process start to finish.

"This is an incredible achievement," said Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne at the opening ceremony of the center last year. "(The claims service center) is a bona fide, efficiency and productivity winner."