VA Help Line: Help Needed?

The Department of Veterans Affairs Help Line  could use some assistance of its own. In recent months it has become anything but and has served to frustrate some veterans. Have a question on a medical issue? Compensation? Educational benefits? To make it convenient for the veteran, most questions lead to (800) 827-1000. Go to any VA Web site, pamphlet or other publication and the answer is the same. Unless you have safeguarded local numbers, you will be swimming in this toll-free pool.

If you are calling on the mundane, you may get through, but let’s say education is your issue. You may be told (via recording) to call back since the VA is too busy to help you.

Veterans calling on educational benefits found a recorded message instructing them to call back because all lines were busy. When the specialists are uber occupied, there is no “hold” option. Call back. Veterans have called at varying times and received the same rejection. I tried it and found this to be true. If you’re lucky you’ll get through with just a 10 minute wait to talk to a representative.

Who knew?

The education menu choice seems partly to blame. The caller is asked if he has a question about a VA benefit. Sure – Option 2. Then the recording goes through a list of options, one of which is education programs. Yes –Option 1. When no option on the following list of educational choices fits, one may choose to speak with a case manager. Makes sense, but this option sends one into “Call back” hell.

What’s unclear, but later was explained by a case manger, the jammed phone cue is for GI Bill questions, which also has its own number, (888) 442-4551, that leads to the same menu as the main toll-free number. (“Second base!”) Education within Vocational Rehabilitation is a call of a different color and is lumped under Vocational Rehabilitation. I quickly connected with a human by choosing Option 3.

If the case managers were marginal, it would be easy to slough off this a typical bureaucratic misstep. But those on the VA help line are knowledgeable. Ok, they do spout off too many Chapter 10s and Chapter 33s when you want your layperson queries satisfied, but they’re good and can be creative.

Vets, the help line is worth the frustration.

VA – Hire some additional case managers.

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