The VA/DoD eBenefits site, also known as Veteran eBenefits, is your single online point of contact with everything that has to do with being a current or former member of the armed forces. The website, a collaboration between Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, is designed to serve service members, Veterans, and wounded warriors.
The family members of these service members, and any caregivers authorized to interact with the US government on behalf of a Veteran or service member, are also allowed to access this website.
What the Veteran eBenefits Site Offers Vets and Service Members
Veteran eBenefits was designed to be a one-stop-shop, so to speak, in order to make it easier for a Veteran or current service member to access their personal information and perform tasks that they can handle themselves (something the VA/DoD likes to call “self-service tasks”. Vets, family members, and caregivers can sign up for eBenefits and receive a free Basic account, which grants access to many of the site’s resources.
In some instances, you may also need a Premium account; this is also free, but requires you jump through a few hoops in order to verify your identity. Details on this process, provided by the VA, can be found here.
Once you receive your Veteran eBenefits Premium account, you have unlimited access to all the features of the eBenefits platform. These features include both online and PDF applications for programs like disability compensation and other types of benefits.
Managing benefits can all be done on this efficient platform. You can manage and track all of these:
- Benefit status
- Documents and Records
- Contact and Direct Deposit Information
- VA Representative
- Health Care
There are employment resources for Veterans looking to transition to the civilian workforce (or for those who have lost a civilian job and are looking for a new one), and the site also provides access to the National Resource Directory, allowing you to find links to resources on subjects of interest to you.
Holding it all together is a personalized Dashboard. This is customizable so that your preferences and information needs can be presented to you every time you log into the eBenefits system.
More than for Just Filing Your Benefits Claims
The Veteran eBenefits site is certainly used by Veterans for filing benefits claims and then monitoring them as they’re processed. A good proportion of the activity on the site is centered around that to be sure.
However, the other resources of the site shouldn’t be discounted. In addition to employment resources and National Resource Directory access, Veteran eBenefits also offers a comprehensive learning section as well, making it easy for you to discover and understand exactly what types of benefits you might be eligible for through the site.
The list of possible benefits that are reviewed is quite exhaustive. The Benefits Explorer function offers a personalized list of possible benefits based on your VA/DoD eBenefits profile, including benefits for housing, health care, education, pension, and more.
The site’s Transition GPS Training module offers free courses to help understand the benefits you may be entitled to as you transition into Veteran status, all without any required login. Finally, the State Benefits Information Packet function allows you to request benefits information packets from the State Veterans Affairs office most relevant to your location.
At the very least, these educational resources will give you something to read while you wait for your application to process.
The History of the Veteran eBenefits System
The history of the Veteran eBenefits system can be traced back to March of 2007. The President’s Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors, also known as the Dole-Shalala Commission, came to life when President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13426.
The purpose of the commission was to both examine the processes surrounding the transition of military service members into civilian society and to make improvement recommendations that would improve the quality and effectiveness of these processes, making it easier for someone leaving the US armed forces to re-integrate into their civilian lives.
Among many of the recommendations made by the Commission included the creation of an online web portal. This online resource would be a single place where current service members, Veterans, their families, and even authorized caregivers could have a central access point with a single sign-on. It was also recommended that the site would offer not just benefits information but clinical information as well.
This required both Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Defense to partner in order to create the website. The result is the VA/DoD Veteran eBenefits site that many Veterans are familiar with today.
The Modern Need for a Centralized Benefits Platform
The Dole-Shalala Commission discovered what Veterans had already known, and were struggling with, for years – the way Veteran benefits were administrated by the Federal government were in disarray. Any post-9/11 Veteran can tell you that, between dealing with the DoD and the VA separately, the frustration levels of getting anything done were catastrophically high.
There were a number of issues that created these problems, some of which was the sheer volume of issues that Veterans faced upon returning home from active duty. With conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan leading to a surge in Veterans with both physical disabilities and often mental illnesses such as PTSD, the VA and the DoD were simply unprepared to manage the influx.
These conditions were only made worse by instances of Veterans finding it difficult to reintegrate into the civilian workforce. The vicissitudes of the 21st century economy have seen a number of recessions and job losses, and Veterans, who make up a significant percentage of the population, often bear the brunt of these market fluctuations.
Large numbers of Veterans attempting to file for unemployment insurance or related benefits through the VA or DoD further complicated the issue, causing high levels of stress and major slowdowns. Something simply needed to be done, and the creation of the Veteran eBenefits system was the solution.
Not Exactly Perfect, But the Best We Have
The problems that Veterans faced trying to gain the attention of the VA and the DoD didn’t disappear overnight with the advent of the Veteran eBenefits website. To be sure, this new approach certainly tried its best to streamline processes and make it easier to put the power back in the hands of service members and Veterans, especially when it came to so-called self-service tasks that could be done by a Veteran without live help.
Likewise, with family members and caregivers being offered a more active role, accessibility for Veterans certainly improved. At the same time, many of the slowdowns of the old system still exist under this new one. Periodic outages can be highly frustrating for Veterans trying to conduct business through the site, especially during times of urgency.
However, there is one rather bright spot that the eBenefits website does shed in these current times, and that’s continued access even during the COVID-19 pandemic. With regional VA offices shuttering in March of 2020 for an indefinite period of time, the eBenefits site becomes the only way for a Veteran to manage their benefits or get their questions answered effectively.
The fact that the infrastructure was already in place in the form of the Veteran eBenefits website has likely ended up saving more lives during the coronavirus crisis, as there was no need to wait for a resource to be put in place. Of course, with offices closed there are now many more people having to use the site exclusively, and that has undoubtedly caused system strain.
Yet the eBenefits website still remains, while not exactly a perfect solution, but certainly the best one we have currently. At least it’s better than waiting in line at a branch office – or spending hours on the phone listening to hold music.
Navigating the eBenefits Website Yourself
Because of the emphasis that the VA and the DoD have placed on automation and self-service, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to navigating the Veteran eBenefits website. That being said, you don’t have to flounder through the process alone. In fact, there are plenty of people and organizations standing by to help you answer questions about how to accomplish things through the Veteran eBenefits site.
Veterans support organizations and their experienced personnel are committed to improving the quality of life for service members, and many of their personnel are intimately acquainted with the way the eBenefits site functions.
Don’t feel like you have to go it alone if you’re facing what seems like a daunting task. The eBenefits site might seem labyrinthine, but you don’t have to delve into that maze without an experienced guide. If you’re worried about being able to find your way through the red tape alone, contact the National Veterans Foundation today. We’ll help you through every step of the process. Rely on the NVF and find out why our motto is “no one left behind”.