WARTAC: DOD/VA pilot program trains transitioning warriors to process VA disability claims



 

On VBA’s social media channels, people often ask, “What is VA doing about the claims backlog?” or “Why doesn’t VA hire more Veterans?” or “Why doesn’t VA hire Veterans to work on Veterans’ claims?”

The answers, actually, are that “VA has done quite a lot,” and “We have, and we are [hiring Veterans].”

In fact, VA did it yesterday.

At Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and at Fort Carson, Colorado, 27 total Servicemembers graduated the Warrior Training Advancement Course (WARTAC), a pilot handshake between DOD and VA to train transitioning Servicemembers into becoming Veterans Service Representatives (VSR) for VA.

These are the people who process disability claims. Not ironically, many, if not all, of the graduates have personally gone through the claim process themselves while still attached to their unit’s Warrior Transition Battalion, a specialized unit where wounded Soldiers can focus on healing to transition back to the Army or into civilian status.

Jarrett Briscoe is one of them, and he’ll soon be working in the Appeals Management Center in Washington, DC.

“No one understands the plight of a Veteran as much as a fellow Veteran, so I can relate,” the former Army staff sergeant said. “I know the frustration. I’ve navigated the claims process. But now I’m in the position to be a change agent.”

Former Army Specialist Noah Prive, soon headed to the Boston regional office, tugged his goatee and smiled. “Obviously, I wasn’t planning on ending my military service,” he said, alluding to his separation, “but I’m proud that I’ll be able to continue serving Veterans.”

Briscoe, Prive, and their classmates will be joining a workforce that’s primarily made up of Veterans. What’s so special about WARTAC is the natural handoff, reintegrating soldiers whose careers ended prematurely into continuing their service, and being placed with a job upon graduation.

“This is like a promotion,” said James Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense—and 21-year USMC Veteran, to the graduates and unit leaders in the crowd. “You are the future leaders of a great organization, but right now, you’re taking the initiative to impact the lives of other Veterans.”

Mark Bilosz, Deputy Director for Operations of VBA Compensation Services, told the graduates: “Servicing Veterans is one of the most noble jobs in the federal government. With your 14 weeks of training, you will enter the VA workforce fully trained.”

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Just like in the service, “training will always continue,” Bilosz noted. “VA has made huge strides, and we’ll not stop in continuing to impact Veterans’ lives.”

VSRs, along with Rating Veterans Service Representatives (RVSRs), do the bulk work in processing Veteran’s disability claims. Since disability entitlements open the door to additional VA benefits, the VSR is a challenging and rewarding position—and one that’s also a fantastic entry opportunity into VA and the federal government.

Eligibility for WARTAC is open to active duty Servicemembers in the transition process. It’s currently only offered at Fort Carson and Fort Belvoir, but the goal is to expand the program nationally. Additionally, applicants must be endorsed by their Chain of Command, and they must be available to attend the 14-week training program and to begin employment within 120 days from initiation of their training.

When the Servicemembers complete training, the graduates can get hired into one of VBA’s 56 regional offices (one in each state, including Puerto Rico and the Philippines, but some big states have multiple locations).

Prive, reflecting on the past 14 weeks, is excited to get started. “When you get your guys to your left and to your right, and if they need something, you’re there for them,” he said. “There’s never a question, like, ‘Well, I can’t help you.’ No, it’s, ‘I got you, man, whatever you need.’”

Author

Jason Davis

Jason Davis served five years in the Army’s 101st Airborne, including two combat tours to Iraq.

Comments

  1. RW Spangler    

    I’ve been trying to connect with the Belvoir Transition BN and they have huge blocks in the way. Why? Hiring 27 is fine, what about the rest?

  2. Sally Remrey    

    Does this apply to appeals too. I have had an appeal for my son in for over 400 days. And the only info I can get from the VA is that it takes on average 447 days to process an appeal. If my son did not have me to care for him he would be homeless. Why does the VA make it so hard for those who need help. I can see no changes in how the VA process’s claims, and this is so sad for veterans and their families.

  3. John Smith    

    My self and a colleague medical officer were hired in 2008 as a result of the Dole/Shalala commission recommendation to update the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities or VASRD. We found such hostile environment towards change there and we were ridiculed when we asked for books and an office. We were fired six months later of a one year probationary period. The non veteran lawyer that fired us is no longer there thank God but opened a firm assisting Veterans with claims and appeals. Its the irony of ironies but it is 100% true. I would love to return to VBA WDC to work for veterans and wonder if it is possible at all to do so. ps do not need referral to USAJOBS web thanks, I am very familiar with the page.

  4. José Flores    

    Proud to serve 2 Enduring Freedom and 2 Iraky Freedom recieving 30% but i’ts not enough I have to work with pain and under perscribe medication every day I am grateful to VA but specially to God but still think its not fair what I have to go threw after 29.3 years of service

  5. Samuel Lee    

    Thank you very much

    1. Patricia Fuller    

      I have personally assisted, (and still do), Veterans with their disability claims with a 99% success rate, while in service and since my retirement. After I retired in 2002, my first submission to V.A. for my Disability yielded me 90% and I plan to get my other 10% shortly. I worked, after Retirement with a local college, helping Veteran’s with benefits, employment, employment training, as well as applying for disability, With that said, working in administration in the U.S. Army for over 30 years, a Master’s Degree, and tons of experience and qualification, I have applied to the V.A. for employment in positions where I qualified, over-qualified and under-qualifed, with over 15 jobs applied for, I have yet to be employed or to even garner an interview. Who Better To Help Veterans than Veterans. If the V.A. was truly interested in hiring Veterans, they would. They are not. They often View Veterans as a Threat, because they know the we will support one another, where we read and many of us have experienced Veteran’s Abuse at the hands and authority of many who are not qualified to work at the V.A. or with Veteran’s. I do not state this haphazardly. Many of my fellow veterans and I have discussed this matter, as they to have applied endlessly for positions at the V.A. with no success. If the power that be were really interested in hiring Veterans, the program addressed here would not be so limited, it would be open worldwide and information on how to apply to the program would be indicated in the article which it is not. “Pilot Program”, “27 Trained.” NOT ENOUGH in respect to the fact that there are too many qualified Veterans unemployed after leaving service, who are highly skilled, even in the area of assisting fellow Veterans with disability cases and the Back-log of incomplete disability cases will not be fixed with 27 individuals through a Pilot program.
      Just a bit of advice to my fellow Veterans, when “someone” refers you to USAJOBS in regards to your inquiry about employment with the V.A., pay them no mind. It is just another way to circumvent hiring Veterans, your skills and qualifications immediately disqualify and target you for non-employment. Oh, and email me if you do, so we can discuss the fact that 9 times out of 10, the response you will receive, i.e, “We did not receive all the necessary documents from you”, or, “You did not meet the qualifications”, (with no further information), that you will most likely receive.

      Good Luck Fellow Vets. Stay Strong, We will eventual break through this biased system.
      If it were not for Veterans,…..there would be no V.A.

  6. Robert Warren    

    This is the first I’ve heard of this program and I would love to get into it. I’m a retired Marine and as the article stated, “who better to serve and understand the process more than a vet.” How do I find information on getting accepted to the program.

    1. Jason D.    

      Robert, the program is open to those currently serving in Warrior Transition Units on major military installations. If you’re interested in a VA career, especially as a VSR, keep an eye on USAJobs.

  7. tomas gomez sr    

    i kind of gave up on claims.. corroded artery and systemic heart disease not related. really? just tired of the fight after all these years..still grateful for all the va has done for me. i just don’t understand sometimes….

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