As one of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s social media administrators, it’s my job to create and curate VA benefits and Veteran-centric content on VBA social media channels. This includes program news and updates, tips and how-tos, and in sharing resources to help our community understand how to claim their benefits. This also means I’m the guy you come to when you have questions (and complaints) about VA benefits.
As an Army Veteran, I often draw on personal experience when talking to my Veteran brothers and sisters in arms, but I also have access to a wealth of resources and VA program experts to assist me with answering your questions. Other times, when stumped with a question and Google isn’t playing nicely, I turn to 311VET.
311VET is VBA’s new benefits app, and it answers a wide range of questions about Veterans benefits, including what benefits you may be entitled to, how to apply for benefits, how different benefits are defined, and where to go to get more information about VA services. 311VET can provide information about most VA benefits, including pension, education, health, disability, loan, burial and career benefits.
That said, 311VET can’t answer questions about the status of specific claims (use IRIS for that) or other questions that require personally identifying information (PII) or protected health information (PHI). 311VET also can’t answer questions that fall outside the scope of VA benefits, like “What’s for dinner?” or “What day is it?” or “Who will be the next President?”
So, how does 311VET work?
If you have a general benefits question and you can’t find the answer online, or through the call center, simply download the app on your smart phone or tablet or text your question to 311838 (yes, only six digits).
If your question is in the database, meaning it’s one that has already been asked, you receive an instant computer response. If not, your question is routed to a team of human experts who will find an answer for you. This generally takes just a few minutes.
In fact, the app has worked so well, my co-workers at VBA’s Benefits Assistance Service have been using it in real time at outreach events across the country. As an example, when I’m at an event, I show other Vets my own “Ask” history, which mostly includes questions I’ve fielded from VBA’s Facebook page:
- Can I file a dependent claim for my disabled aunt?
- Can I use my VA home loan to repair my home even if I don’t have a VA home loan mortgage?
- I was overpaid last semester with the Post-9/11 GI Bill after I dropped a class. How do I contact the Debt Management Center?
- Can I use the VA home loan to start a small business?
- My grandfather served in WWII and doesn’t have his service records or medals. We were told they burned in a fire. What can we do to get his records?
- What resources does VA have for homeless Vets?
Answers to these, and more, appeared within minutes.
As you can see, 311VET is highly resourceful. And it gets better the more you use it since each new question is added to the database. Best of all, 311VET is open for questions 24/7, 365 days a year, including all federal holidays.
So, how do you get it?