And no wonder….

My own, far less critical, tale of communicating with the VA:

The only benefit I have taken advantage of through the VA has been my home mortgage. 

The point is that I have not used, nor do I have any intention to use, my VA health benefits.  Or any other VA benefits, aside from the mortgage, unless pressed by circumstances so that the VA is the only avenue left to me.  (I don’t need it, and by not using the resource, others in far more need should be able to do so more quickly and easily.)

Every six months or so I get a letter from the VA that explains all my benefits.  I don’t need this letter.  I know what my benefits are, if I have questions I know how to find out, and, as stated, I don’t plan to use them anyway.

So I thought I’d save the VA some time and money and have myself removed from their mailing list.

I called.  The automated phone tree is arcane.  I guessed at various options and was finally told that they were closed for the day (hours from 8 am to 5 pm CST M-f—it was 4:45pm). 

Tried again a few days later, earlier.  When I did get through to people, they told me that they were the wrong person to help, and no they didn’t know who was.

I e-mailed.  The menu options on the e-mail page is almost as arcane.  I made my bet guesses and sent the message into the ether.  Received a reply a few days later that they were the wrong department to help me.

On the reply message is a place to put a counter reply and mail it back, so I did that, asking if they could direct me to the right office, expecting the answer, “We don’t know.”  Instead I got a bounce message.

This one came from the VA and not some mail router along the way, and said that my message could not be accepted because the address in my message header didn’t match the address that the VA had on file for me.

The Army is in the process of making changes to its e-mail systems and my address had changed, from [me]@us.army.mil to [me]@beta.army.mil.  So I logged into the VA system and changed my on file e-mail address and then resent the message.

If anyone isn’t aware, I work in IT in the civilian world.  So I’m a little more savvy on these problems and how to fix them than John Q. Public or PVT Joe Snuffy.  The next one still has me baffled.  I got another bounce message.

This one said that my mail browser’s S\MIME encryption didn’t match what was expected, to fix that and retry the send.  S\MIME is an e-mail encryption, public, that is updated from time to time—I usually get some kind of notice….

I went ahead and updated S\MIME.  The message still bounced and for the same reason.  No idea what to do.

So here’s the point.  This whole system is designed, it seems to me, to prevent Veterans from communicating with the VA.  As I pointed out, I’m a bit better equipped to handle the technical part of this, imagine some Korean War or Vietnam veteran, though, who hates computers trying to make sense of these issues.

The problems with the VA are systemic.  Until that’s realized, and until they are willing to tear the whole thing down, they will never fix it.

An organization you should consider supporting:  Veterans for a Strong America

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2 thoughts on “And no wonder….”

  1. Sparky,You have only scratched the surface of the problems at the VA. As you know, I have dealt with them for years. They tell you about all of the "benefits" to which you are entitled, but there is so much red tape that you rarely can get any help on a real issue. Since 2004, I have had serious tremors, problems with memory, mysterious rashes, balance issues, and several other symptoms. I have had multiple appointments over the years, but the answer always comes back PTSD. They can't explain and try to ignore the rashes, that appear, blister, then disappear. I have gone to many civilian doctors that can't believe the VA calls it PTSD. I am not the only veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD to make it easy for the VA. The VA always sends me info about the benefits to which I am entitled. They don't get it. All I want is for them to fix the problems I was sent to them for, not a bunch of "free" entitlements. As you know, I had a great civilian career. I want them to fix my problems so I can return to the civilian world I left. I don't think it will ever happen. I have met many good employees at the VA, but they are handcuffed by the system. Even if they want to help you, they have to "follow the rules."I tell everyone I know about the VA and how taxpayers are getting ripped off. If every U.S. citizen was required to use the VA for one year, the VA and Obamacare would be scrapped. When any civilian who has never cared to see what happens at the VA whines about Obamacare, I tell them, "Welcome to civilian VA healthcare."The bottom line is I agree with you and so do many other disabled veterans who go to the VA. FIX ME INSTEAD OF BUYING ME OFF WITH UNWANTED ENTITLEMENTS!Thanks,Maj Scott

  2. The problem with the VA, similar to all entitlement systems, it was developed by politicians in an attempt to shut up Veterans, and win votes. Veterans, for the most part are independent thinkers and prefer to rely upon self and those closest to them. We don't like to ask for or accept help, and charity directed toward us leaves us feeling "dirty". There are exceptions to this, and many of our younger troops misunderstand the great outpouring of support, thereby gaining the perception that they should be entitled by their service. They forget the honor that they are afforded comes by their selfless sacrifice and the fact that they volunteered to this calling that not everyone can or will do.The VA perpetuates this through interviews that too often become coaching sessions, and VA representatives that are going so far out of the way to get claims filed that they tell you to claim disability for your hang nail suffered during the deployment (too good to be true, if I hadn't seen it after two separate deployments).The VA, as well as the military healthcare system are well intentioned, but overloaded with frivolous cases of abuse, misuse, and in the worst of cases, fraud. For as much is the system is broken, the operating environment is also to blame. The problem is, it is too easy for people to make silly lawsuits (it would seem that they have to do this to affect change anymore), and without meaningful reform in our civil courts, the systems will never be able to work effectively due to their environmental constraints. Hopefully, as our fiscal environment tightens, we will see some meaningful reform to these systems, and the environment that they must operate in.

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