By Richard Eckert
For some time now, the County Veteran Service Officers have been using an online-based application for filing claims for veterans. The forms are online so the CVSO can fill them in and electronically send them to the selected service organization such as the American Legion, DAV and VFW.
To be able to do the electronic transfers, the CVSOs must be accredited with those organizations. The system will off-load some of the work for the service organization, however they will still be able to assist veterans and they will still be able to help with their claims by representing them when a hearing is scheduled regarding a claim that has been appealed and by serving as a resource person for the County Veterans Service Officers.
Legislation was passed that requires all CVSOs to be “accredited.” In the past, all the CVSOs were “certified.” They had to attend an annual three-day training conference and pass a test on the material presented. This year the training conference is scheduled for five days, June 4-7, and all the CVSOs will have to pass the accreditation test to continue to serve. In addition, they will be expected to take the VA’s Training, Responsibility, Involvement and Preparation of Claims training and pass a test.
With the VA TRIP certification and certification by the service organizations, the CVSOs will be able to access on the computer the VA’s Stakeholder’s Enterprise Portal, which will allow them to see the files of veterans in their county which have representation with a service organization. These new designations for the CVSOs will allow them to get a lot of information regarding the veterans’ claims that in the past they had to get by telephoning a service organization or the Veterans Administration Regional Office. Also, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs wants the county offices to be open at least half-time.
The Whitley County office is staffed five days a week to help veterans. We are fortunate in Whitley County to have County Commissioners and a County Council that are 100 percent behind efforts to serve our veterans. We have a handicap-accessible office in the Government Center, a part-time VSO and a part-time assistant VSO. We try to have someone in the office beginning at 9 a.m. Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and 7:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If necessary, we make house calls and we try to work with those who have conflicting schedules.
It is best to call for an appointment due to the volume of business we handle. Otherwise, there could be a long wait or we might not be in the office to serve you if we have a meeting somewhere. We are here to assist veterans who want to enroll in the VA Hospital system, who want to file a claim for disability or pension and who want to ask for an increase in compensation. Also, we help veterans’ widows file claims for benefits when they lose their husbands.
— Richard Eckert is Whitley County’s veteran service officer.