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Bureaucratic Battlefield

Tips for Dealing With the V.A.

by Carolyn Heinze, Contributing Editor

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Filing A Claim With The Department Of Veterans Affairs


Navigating through a sticky maze of red tape is kind of like math: there are those of us who are good at it - enjoy it, even, and then, there are those of us who, try as we might, that can’t make much sense of it. When it comes to filing a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.), you owe it to yourself to give it your best shot, no matter how great at amassing paperwork you are - or aren’t.

The V.A. offers services and benefits related to disability, education and training, vocational rehabilitation and employment, home loan guarantees, dependent and survivor benefits, medical treatment, life insurance and burial benefits. The question is: is there a right way of going about filing a claim? Yes and no. Like many things in life, the most appropriate answer is, “it depends.” Here, we have compiled some of the basic steps to follow, based both on information provided to us by the V.A., as well as through what veterans themselves have shared, based on their own experiences.

Take the time to do your homework. There is a lot of information out there, which doesn’t always make things easier, but if you take the time to sift through the information, it can certainly help. This involves a lot of Web surfing, even more reading and, hopefully, reaching out to others who have been in your position through organizations and social networks. Of course, not all advice that you ferret out or receive will be good advice, but the more you gather, the better equipped you will be at sorting through what’s useful, and what’s not.

Get in touch with a Veteran Service Organization (VSO). The V.A. provides information directly via its toll-free number (1-800-827-1000), or through its network of regional offices (visit for a full listing by clicking on the Locations tab). Veterans may also seek help from a VSO. VSOs are either chartered or unchartered. Chartered organizations are federally authorized to provide veteran representation before the V.A. for things like preparing and filing claims. They may also provide veterans and their families with legal representation before the V.A. Board of Appeals in cases where veterans are not in accordance with the results of their initial claim. Chartered VSOs include The American Legion, The American Red Cross, Blue Star Mothers of America, Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Disabled American Veterans, Gold Star Wives of America and United Service Organizations (USO). For more information on these and other VSOs, visit


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