VA Gives Veterans Another Chance to Serve

This photo shows the seal affixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington.
This June 21, 2013, file photo shows the seal affixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington. (Charles Dharapak/AP File Photo)

I'm a proud Air Force veteran and a new member of the Department of Veterans Affairs team. Joining the VA, I wasn't quite sure what to expect after having spent 12 years working for the Department of Defense as both an active-duty military member and a civilian. But so far, what I've experienced has been positive and full of dedicated staff members who are here to serve.

I didn't expect to see so many veterans and reconnect with so many people with whom I have served. From people I know and have been stationed with, to friends of friends, the network of veterans within this organization is huge.

But the dedication of its team members and the VA's commitment to hiring veterans makes it much more than just a place where I can reconnect with long-lost Air Force friends. It means that throughout the health, benefits and national cemetery administrations, veterans are serving veterans, spouses and their families.

Just look at the Veterans Benefits Administration, where 54% of total VBA claims raters are veterans. In 2012 alone, 88% of newly hired claims raters were veterans. What this means is that most of the people working on veterans' claims have a vested interest in getting those done quickly and accurately -- because maybe some of them have filed claims in the past or even have claims pending. They get it! Having a personal connection to the process makes it that much more important to make sure the process is effective.

There's a backlog, and while we're making steady progress on reducing it, it's important to remember that the VA and VBA claims reps are working hard to complete every claim quickly and accurately. We know that each claim will have an impact on a veteran in need of assistance.

Veterans applying for new claims can help by filing a fully developed claim, or FDC, when it's applicable. This means you submit all of your information at once, and certify that you have no further information to file in relation to that claim. If it fits your needs, it's much faster than other types of claims. Veterans can file an FDC when they have an injury, disability or condition believed to have occurred or been aggravated by military service or a condition caused or aggravated by an existing, service-related condition. More information about the different types of claims and compensation is available here.

Claim status can be tracked by registering at eBenefits. Also, visit VA's ASPIRE website to find information about processing times for the regional office that is working on your claim.

Beyond claims, my experience with the VA staff is that people are proud of the jobs they do in serving veterans. They -- we -- all want to ensure you receive the world-class health care and benefits you have earned through your service.

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