About the VA

Overview

The United States government began serious consolidated services to veterans in 1930. The GI Bill of Rights, which was passed in 1944, had more effect on the American way of life than any other legislation - with the possible exception of the Homestead Act.

However, it was 38 USC that actually created the Department of Veterans Affairs as we know it today. This is a cabinet-level position in the government.

The VA operates through state-based regional and national offices. Applications are reviewed at the national offices.

However, the actual VA "intake" mechanism is not a function of the VA itself. Since the 1950's the VA has used a network of what has now grown to over 110 agencies that provide Veterans Service Officers or "VSO's".

About VSO's

VSO's are accredited by the VA, but are not employees of the VA. The VA does not operate any local offices where a potential applicant or their families can inquire about benefit eligibility.

Examples of VSO sponsors are the: VFW, DAV, Red Cross, American Legion, many Councils on Aging, and all state government Departments of Veterans Affairs. When you inquire about benefit eligibility, you are not speaking with the VA itself. The VA actually advises potential applicants to interview VSO's before engaging them to assist in their application process.

How Efficient is the Veterans Administration?

In 2004, the Government Accounting Office (the investigative arm of Congress) conducted an investigation of the VA and its efficiency. This was essentially a secret, internal report.

However, in 2005 the Knight-Ridder News Agency (at that time the largest news organization in the United States) learned of the study and sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy. This information lead to a series of news articles published by Knight-service in newspapers across the country in 2005.

The conclusions of the GAO report were startling. The findings of the report indicated that information provided through the VSO network and the VA's 800 number system was "totally, minimally, partially, or mostly incorrect" a staggering 80% of the time. This means a potential applicant can expect to receive incorrect information regarding benefit eligibility 8 out of 10 times.

As a result, many duly qualified applicants are told by the VSO/VA network that they are not qualified to receive benefits, when the opposite is true.

The study also found that only 19% of the answers provided were "completely correct". A common theme with inquiries was "rude, dismissive, unprofessional, and unhelpful" behavior on the part of those providing information.

Should I try to file a VA claim by myself?

In our opinion and strongly reinforced by the VA, the answer is "No." The VA recognizes three groups to assist veterans in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims: The accredited Veterans Service Officer's (VSO), claims agents and VA accredited attorneys. The claims process can be very frustrating if you have not been trained and do not understand the law. Therefore, you may unnecessarily be denied due to incorrectly presented information. Your claim may also take many more months to complete because of information request and exchanges between you and the VA. We strongly recommend that you use the services of a VA accredited individual or organization, which includes state and county veterans service agencies. There is no fee for using an accredited resource.

For more information please contact us or go to our frequently asked questions section.

For more information about the VA go to www.VA.gov.

Timeliness of Content

Because of the complexity of applicable VA statutes, regulations, and internal claim development issues, it is impossible to keep this website fully updated at all times. Therefore, we cannot take responsibility for the current accuracy of the information presented here. For the most updated information, please contact a your Senior Veterans Advocate.

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