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5 More Ways VA is Helping Out Vets

The Department of Veteran Affairs doesn't get the recognition they deserve. They're really working hard to help vets. As the official VA Nerd-in-Residence, I'd like to begin 2014 by reminding folks of a few of the VA's efforts.

  1. The VA is doing more and more to give homeless vets a hand. The move is part of the larger government-wide effort to end veterans homelessness in the next two years, and comes at a time when most federal programs are tightening their belts in an effort to deal with sharp reductions in funding. More on the homelessness efforts here and on the VA site here.

    ending va homelessness

    Photo Credit: U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs

  2. For disability compensation, they've deployed something like TurboTax for veterans. It appears to be decently user-friendly, adjusted for the way that vets and veteran service orgs (VSOs) really operate. The software also accounts for all the laws and regulations, the rules that VA has gotta follow to write checks.A vet would start up eBenefits, online, click on "Apply for Disability Compensation" and go. It's mostly drop-down menus, and many data fields get filled in automatically. It's way easier and faster than paper forms. (More about self-service for disability claims processing here… and here.)
  3. The VBA workers are doing a whole lot for vets. Most of the workers are on the VA medical side, but there's also a group that processes benefits payments for vets. That's the Veterans Benefits Administration–VBA–and they work on over a million disability claims from vets each year. They deserve a lot more thanks than they're getting.
  4. VBMS development involved a lot of waterfall stuff, but much more recently, VA people are actually directly listening to people on that and acting on that. If vets, VSOs, or VA workers find a problem or have a suggestion, they contact contact actual humans to get stuff done. (A little more on my big idea for 2014 and how to fix Washington's approach to tech…)
  5. They've been working hard to get the paper claims inventory converted to digits and put into VBMS, which involves scanning huge amounts of paper into the system. That's about 80% done. (You can view before and after photos here.)nerd-4

The Department of Veterans Affairs is doing some really good stuff for vets that no one hears about, catching up since 2009. I've helped, in a very minor way for several years, now I gotta do more, for VA, military families, and vets.

What do you appreciate about the VA? And what are you hoping they'll begin to work on in 2014?

A nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Responses »

8 Responses to 5 More Ways VA is Helping Out Vets

Virasay Savath says:

I'm inspired and thankful for the motivation that encouraged me to leave a comment here. Veterans deserve more supports than what we know today and I wish they will be the ones who will come out to acknowledge the efforts VBA have done for them. I hope in couple years for real say by 2017, they will no longer be homeless; their voices will be heard and they will be healthy and powerful people again. They were stronger than us and protected us from the wars. I also hope that I can contribute to the work on their medical records so that they will be the first to have a universal medical record that will allow they to travel anywhere and feel safe in any country where they will freely travel or perhaps deployed again for their bravery and strength to fight another war; and where the medical attention for their wellbeing is needed. Do you think we have tech skills today to get the universal medical records for veterans and even for ourselves done?

Fred McFarland says:

I was a homeless vet but thanks to the VASH program I was able to become stable in a home for two years.

Dan Ocko says:

Dear Craig,
Thank you for helping our veterans and I want to pass on a very heartfelt request that you consider this idea for review and development.

The IRS counts, according to a 2012 or 2013 nyt article, more than 70,000 nonprofits that say they help veterans. (1/3rd created in the last 3 years)

As someone who has worked on creating state based programs and non-profit programs since 2002, coordinating all of these programs is not happening as it should. Americans are giving, but there are so many different local, regional, state and national non-profits, nobody helping veterans really knows what 95% of the other programs do and whether these other programs could be helpful in their own efforts.

So I suggest we look at this problem from the perspective of the va caseworker, the national guard family office, the county veterans advocate, the local American legion/VFW service volunteer. How do we get them the information about these 70,000 nonprofits and who could help when they have a veteran in front of them.

That's where some app, mobile website or database would come into play. Kind of like craigslist or the websites of some state human services programs that ask you generic questions and it says what programs can help.. Groups could offer help, categorized by type of help, region, type of veteran, service, disability, lots of ways. Geography and other categories could be incorporated. If a local VFW wants to offer help just in their town, let them do it and a local va counselor can find it out. There is a veterans advocate in northeast Pa that also understands the problem who made an excel spreadsheet that does a great job in establishing categories, but a spreadshet is not the right way to do it and he doesn't know how to convert it to anything else.

Maybe you want a moderator for every state to validate the offer to stop scams or security threats to veterans but it could really be peer to peer and I think it would really help va social workers.

So a va caseworker would input the geographic location of the veteran and what they need and what are characteristics of the veteran.
A list of groups, contact info and guidelines would be quickly provided to the caseworker.

I know there are several existing websites that try to compile this information, but I have not found one yet that does it like I have described.

There is a early 2009 executive order from the Va Secretary ordering the agency to work with nonprofits and I current interact with a few dozen really great va, national guard and county veteran staff. This request is not a complaint about them. I just want to give them the tools to getter them better data about non-governmental efforts to help veterans.

Thanks for considering my request. Feel free to contact me to get a copy of that spreadsheet.

Roderick Bowles says:

As I age the VA continues to improve – thanks to streamlined processing my benefits were adjusted within a few months – weekend emergency bills paid after swapping information through secure messaging – processes continue to be shortened – health care continues to become more timely and quality the best – glad that the VA never forgot me! Rod Bowles

Michael Butler says:

There is a early 2010 executive order from the Va Secretary ordering the agency to work with nonprofits and I currently interact with a few dozen really great VA county veteran staff. It is true that they stay busy,but we the Veteran get treated like trash when we complain at all! If the VA really wants to help the Vet who served with HONOR and Duty to his/her country, then let's get the Vets their Benefits asw soon as possible when applied for. I have been asking the VA for help since 1969 and NOT able yet to get my Benefits for PTSD.

GEORGE J.SESTO says:

I suppose I am one of the fortunate ones,I am a Canadian Nam vet, and all these years I had no idea that I should have been at the VA to get help. I was finally clued in by a buddy of mine living in NY to get my butt over to the Detroit VA as I live in Amherstburg ,ON. CAN. After all these years I finally got intensive testing and had my disability rating changed. I was candid as possible and did not BS them because my heart goes out to all of our brothers and sisters coming back from IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN,who truly need help quickly, and I feel the VA did their utmost to help me. The admin folks were very professional and I have to give an A PLUS to my Vietnam vets of America rep for all of his help. GOD BLESS AMERICA, Sgt GJ SESTO, USMC PURPLE HEART ,JUNE 6.1966.

Richard Henson says:

I am in the VA homeless program. I appreciate the help the Veteran’s Administration has offered in finding me housing. However, once I got housing there is nothing in place to assure my quality of life. I have housing, but I would greatly benefit from counseling, dental care, and help with my service connected injury.

1. I don’t have a drug or alcohol addiction, so there is no counseling available for me.

2. I have four teeth that are extremely, and constantly, painful. I don’t look forward to eating, but there is no dental care available.

3. I have had four VA doctors within the first three months of seeking help at the Fresno VA hospital. During each doctor’s short tenure with me, each one sent me to the lab for drug testing, but not one thing was offered to help me with my service connected injury. I went to the lab for blood testing six times and not one of the doctors ever mentioned the results with me.

During my doctor’s visit, each doctor spent the entire time facing the computer while typing what they heard me say. Then after wards they don’t have a clue what I said. I received a permanent doctor, and he follows the same routine of typing without looking at me. He types what he hears me say, and when finished doesn’t know why I am in his office.

During four visits, I have constantly complained to him about my back and neck. My pleading for help has resulted in having one x-ray on my back. However, I was told an x-ray doesn’t give a good indication of what the problem is. I was told an MRI is the best method to see injuries. I have requested an MRI several times. However, my doctor will not give me a MRI. Instead my doctor sent me to physical therapy for my neck and back. I told my doctor several times that my injury occurred in 1976 while I was in the Marine Corp. I told him that I have been to three separate physical therapy sections throughout the years, and was told my injuries were beyond the service offered through physical therapy.

My doctor doesn’t listen to me. He has given me morphine to hide my pain, but does not have one clue want my injuries are. He has no MRI or performed any surgical process to determine my problem, yet gives me morphine to mask the pain. I am in such pain right now and so frustrated with my treatment.

Why does my VA doctor not listen to me? Why does my doctor denied the medical support I need? Is it because I am a homeless veteran, second class citizens? If my doctor had half the injuries I have, and had to endure half the pain I do, he would demand treatment. P.S. I talked to the Homeless program, the hospital DAV, the hospital avocate. The hospital is a tight group that won't take action against their fellow G grades.