The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is transitioning from in-person communications to telephone and internet meetings with veterans in this time of national emergency.
On March 19, the VA closed all 56 of its regional offices to the public in response to the national pandemic but continues to provide much-needed benefits to veterans and their dependents despite the lack of in-person contact.
The VA has expanded its existing telephone and online contact methods as a result of the office closures; officials say the department fully intends to provide the same level of service to veterans as before.
Some of the technologies that VA has implemented include:
- Expanding teleconferencing, case management and general counseling to Vocational Rehabilitation and Education (VR&E) recipients.
- Conducting informal hearings by telephone or video conferencing as necessary.
- Collecting information to process fiduciary claims by telephone.
- Using telephone or video chat technology to process Specially Adapted Housing grant requests.
- Conducting most necessary meetings associated with obtaining a VA Guaranteed Home Loan via remote, electronic methods.
- Changing most routine medical appointments scheduled at VA hospitals or Community Based Outpatient Clinics to telephone conferences between the veteran and their medical provider.
- Conducting examinations for disability benefits over the phone.
"The decision to close our offices to the general public, is part of the VA's effort to limit exposure to vulnerable populations, like our older veterans and those with underlying medical conditions, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. "VA is expanding existing technologies to remain accessible to veterans, service members and their families."
The VA has also discontinued benefit briefings and services on military installations for transitioning service members and their families through the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) until further notice. However, it will provide virtual briefings and individualized counseling for transitioning service members where possible. Service members who have not received these briefings, as required by TAP, may access the Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) platform and register for "TGPS-US006: VA Benefits and Services."
As before, veterans with specific questions can call 800-827-1000 or visit eBenefits for additional details, to access their health information or refill prescriptions.
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