How to Best Navigate the VA Benefits Phone Line

Many Veterans have to deal with the frustration of the VA’s National Phone Line for Benefits Information (800-827-1000), and the long wait times, or in some cases, being told by an automated voice that they cannot take your call at this time.  We know that many people have dealt with that frustration, and we want to provide the best way to get through to get the information updates you need.

  1. Call right when the Phone Line opens in the Morning
    • Phone lines open at 8:00 AM Eastern Time, so calling right at the opening will help you get through, and with usually minimal hold time.
    • Avoid calling during mid-morning or during the lunch hours – call at that time of day will probably get you to the “Due to higher than normal call volume, we cannot take your call at this time” and have to try again later.
  2. Call when the Phone Line is Closed to Set Up a Call Back Appointment
    • You can call after hours and set up an appointment that will work best for you.  It may not be the quickest way to go about it, but it can get you results.
  3. If you call and the wait time is longer than 15 minutes, they will offer you a call back while holding your place in line – take it, it does work.
    • Instead of dealing with the frustration of sitting on hold that we all experience many times in our lives, let the system call you back.  You will need to have it call back to a direct line – the system does not support call backs to extensions.
Some people have asked if eBenefits ( is a better resource to check on information on your benefits, claims, or appeals.  While eBenefits does have quick access, the information on eBenefits is only generalized information.  You will get much more detailed information calling the 800 line.  VA has repeatedly said they want to improve the amount of information available to Veterans on eBenefits.  Our opinion is that this is probably a back burner issue and will not be a priority until many other IT problems are attended to (DOD to VA Medical Records Transfer Link, Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), and other projects).
If you target your call time to the 800 Line, you can get your case-specific information quickly and move on with things.


So I’ve Been Told I’m Going to a Medical Evaluation Board – Now What?

So you’re a Service Member that has been dealing with one or more medical conditions for a considerable amount of time without improvement, and your Medical Provider/Specialist has now said the words that strike panic and shock into you – “We’re going to have to Med Board you.”  At this moment, many thoughts are probably going through your mind:
  • What do I do now?
  • Will I find another job?
  • How long will this take?
  • How will I pay my bills?
  • Where am I going to live?
  • What about my GI Bill?
  • Can I fight this?
  • Is it worth fighting this?
  • What does this mean for my family?

Once you start going through these, there may be a moment that is a relief that all of the struggles of medical issues seems to be at an end.  This is normal.

Once the initial shock and reaction passes, you then will probably go into the natural “Form a Battle Plan” mode, and want to chart out every event that will happen from here on out.  This process is by no means a race.  However, there are many things you can do that will aid you and your family in the process.
Here’s your start-up kit for the MEB Process – The Primer:
First off, make a list of every medical issue that has happened during service.  Make notes as to what the injury is, when it happened, and when you were treated for it.  This is key when tying in service-connection of conditions.
Go to where you get your medical care and request a copy of your medical records.  Go through the records and make placeholders (Post-It Notes will be your new friend) to the conditions.  I recommend getting a color-coding system together to keep your conditions straight.  This will go hand on hand with making your list.
Once you have your list together, look over the VA Schedule of Ratings to learn what all can get a rating for your VA and DOD ratings.  DOD and VA rate things under the same schedule, but run under 2 different criteria.  DOD only considers conditions that are deemed to be Duty-Limiting, whereas VA takes all service-connected conditions into account.  DOD magic number is 30% for retirement, and 30% is a good number for VA, which will get you hiring preference for government jobs if you ever decide to go that route (more on government job preferences in a later post).  Here’s the link to the Schedule of Ratings:
The next link is to a MS Excel Spreadsheet that will help you project the overall VA Disability Rating.  VA Disability Math is strange, so the spreadsheet does all the math for you.  The explanation is they start with the highest rated condition, and subtract that from 100% (so with a top condition of 50%, down to 50%).  After that, the next highest condition is subtracted as a percentage of the remaining percentage (example – the next one is 40%, so 40% of 50%, or 20% in reality), and so on.  It’s a pain to do the calculations by hand, so the spreadsheet makes it easier.

This is the first of many steps.  Remember that you are your best advocate in the process.  Even though you will have people working with you during the process (Case Manager, Primary Care Manager, Staff Counsel, etc.), this is a process where the results will affect you and your family for the rest of your life.

Providing Resources and Guidance for Those Who Serve

Welcome to the home of Military Veterans Benefits Resource Guide! This page will serve as a resource for transitioning Service Members and Veterans to provide resources to get the benefits they’re entitled to. This page will have information that is needed for Veterans and soon-to-be Veterans that many government agencies will not let you know about as a form of roadblocks.

This is a page that will be an evolving depository of resources to guide Veterans, their family members, and caretakers, in the process of finding, applying, and gaining the benefits earned by their military service.  This is a page for Veterans, by Veterans, and is not affiliated or sponsored by any government entity.

If you have any resources, please feel free to share.