McCombs partners with VA to solve fraud, inefficiency problems

Brittany Wagner

The McCombs School of Business recently partnered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help solve problems of fraud and inefficiency within the VA using data analytics.

Four students within the Master of Science in Business Analytics program are working alongside an analytics team at the VA Financial Services Center in Austin to develop a capstone project. The final ideas on how to improve VA efficiency and accuracy will be revealed in April 2017. 

Christopher Pate, chief of data analytics for the FSC, has been collaborating with members of the MSBA program to develop the partnership. 

“Ultimately, FSC sees the collaboration as a means to improve a range of outcomes for VA aimed at improving the veteran experience from reducing wait times, reducing fraud, to identifying issues not even known at this time,” Pate said in a press release.

Ramesh Rajagopalan, associate director of the MSBA program, said the FSC was attracted to a partnership with McCombs because it would provide the FSC team an opportunity to build upon their own set of skills.

The project is set to continue for the next three years, but Rajagopalan anticipates participating in more projects like this in the future. 

Rajagopalan said of the 53 students in the MSBA program, four are tasked with this VA project. The project is a requirement of the business
analytics capstone course, which teaches students how to use data and business skills in real-life situations.

“One [objective of the partnership] is to expand opportunities for faculty and professional development activity,” Rajagopalan said. “Two [is] to create opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning through doing hands-on work in the field of analytics. And three, begin to define and create jointly sponsored and conducted forums to share knowledge that is created through numbers one and two.”

The students will be provided access to FSC data, analyze it, build analytics models and develop solutions to be implemented at some point when they wrap up the project,
Rajagopalan said.

Advertising freshman Christina Mendez’s brother and father are veterans, and she said she’s impressed that McCombs is working to improve the VA’s efficiency. 

“The VA has done a lot for my family,” Mendez said. “My sister goes to school with the help of the Hazlewood Act, so I’m glad that McCombs is partnering with the FSC to ensure ongoing service for veterans and their families.”