VA has fifty-six regional benefits offices – or ROs – located throughout the country. All states have at least one, and a few states have more to handle larger populations. As you may already know, VA ROs periodically hold town hall meetings and claims clinics. These interactive events provide Veterans, dependents and survivors the chance to ask benefits questions and work one-on-one with RO staff about their claims cases and VA benefits. They also give RO management a chance to take feedback from the communities they serve.
But one challenge that many ROs have is that they service large geographical areas that may make participation inconvenient for everyone interested. For the RO, long distance traveling is not always available, and it can take employees out of their offices for extra days, cut into budget allotments, or cause logistical problems and security concerns. And for Veterans, given West Virginia’s rural and mountainous nature, travel is notoriously difficult and time consuming.
So the Huntington RO came up with a solution. Why not conduct a virtual claims clinic?
On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the Huntington RO and Martinsburg VA Medical Center (VAMC) did just that. Staff from the VAMC welcomed and took information from Veterans and family members who came to the event. The attendees were then moved into private offices where they were virtually linked to staff at the Huntington RO, using Jabber cameras and secure Microsoft Lync software. The VAMC and RO staff worked together to initiate claims, check the status of claims, answer any and all questions related to all VA programs and transmitted documents to the RO. It was a one-stop shop for the 57 Veterans and family members who received assistance with benefits claims during the seven-hour event.
Claims clinics are a great opportunity to initiate or inquire about a claim. Many ROs periodically host claims clinics and similar events. To locate an event in your area you can do one of the following:
- Follow VBA on Facebook and Twitter; we post details about the events in advance of the event
- All of our ROs have a designated webpage; this map will link you to the one in your state
- Contact your local RO and inquire about upcoming events
Following the success of this model, we hope to introduce more virtual events when and where possible. But you don’t need to wait for an event to ask questions. All ROs also have public contact personnel who can assist you with your questions during normal operating hours. And as always–you can and should visit an accredited Veterans Service Officer who can also assist you!