A few months ago, the new Secretary of the VA, Robert McDonald, and the Undersecretary for Benefits (USB), Allison Hickey, decided that that wanted to hear directly from Veterans who have experience long delays in any VA Services. To find out what was going on, they publically published their contact information so that Veterans could contact them.
Most of our team here were skeptical of this at first, thinking it was nothing more than lip service for the media to pick up. As things have moved forward, we have been hearing of more cases of contacting them that have produced fast and successful results. Recently, several members of the VBRG Team have used these lines of communication, and got immediate contact back from the USB, who also copied in the Director of the Regional Offices involved, and made fast work of the issues at hand, resolving most long-standing issues in under a week. The USB has made it her mission to tackle any long backlogged claims (claims over 125 days since filing) and delayed appeals and get them moving forward and completed. The USB has assembled an investigative team to tackle any and all inquiries.
The question is how do I contact them effectively?
- First off, Keep It Respectful – they are more likely to help a Veteran who is being calm, cool, and collected than one who is just yelling through the email.
- Provide as Many Details as Possible – Keep a Timeline of Contact on your case – exams, phone calls, letters, and/or major events.They want to help you, but they also want to take the information and help others by making improvements in processes.
- Let Them Know If you’re experiencing hardships because of delays in your case – Are At-Risk of losing your home, unable to pay utility bills, facing bankruptcy, debt collections, repossessions?If so, let them know. Where normal hardship letters seem to fall on deaf ears in the past, going right to the top has produced results in many cases.
If they take the time to respond, respond back to let them know you have seen it, and again, keep it respectful. Here is a sanitized response that one Veteran received from the USB 9 hours after emailing her:
That made me tired just reading all the back and forth you have endured. Let me ask [Regional Office Director] to get an expert on this asap and lets get this resolved with minimal back and forth moving forward.
[Regional Office Director] – please let me know the way forward.
If you feel that your case has been bogged down and want to see something happen, this is the way to go. Below is a graphic of the contact information for the Secretary and USB:
We wish you all the best of luck, and we will keep the information coming.