As an attorney who specializes in VA compensation claims, I rarely commend the VA for anything—and I am not patting it on the back now—but I would like to make veterans aware of VA town hall meetings and encourage participation.
In an August 5, 2014 news release, new VA Secretary McDonald directed all VA Regional Offices and health facilities to hold town hall meetings in order to address veterans’ concerns (including veterans’ dependents) with the VA clams process. In a subsequent October 8, 2014 news release, Secretary McDonald directed that the town hall meetings would continue on a quarterly basis.
One of our Indianapolis clients attended the first town hall held at the Indianapolis Regional Office and, while he was successful in advancing his own claim, pointed out inefficiencies and problems with the RO so well that the local news media wanted him to appear on camera, but he declined. I asked the veteran to write a short note about his experience in hopes that other veterans would take advantage of the VA town hall meetings. Although the veteran focuses on the issues our office had with FOIA requests for his VA claims file, about one week after this all happened I received a call from the Decision Review Officer assigned to his case and settled his pending unemployability (TDIU) decision and also addressed all of his increased-rating claims.
Here is the email I received from the veteran:
The veterans you represent should be interested to know that the VA Regional Offices are now holding quarterly town hall meetings where issues with both the VA hospitals and veteran's disability claims can be expressed. In my case, the Indianapolis Regional Office addressed and solved an issue I had with multiple FOIA requests to obtain a copy of a doctor's exam concerning my claim. The first FOIA request, submitted by your office, dated back 15 months. I also submitted a FOIA request four months ago. Like magic, after bringing up the issue at the town hall meeting I received a copy of the report within a week. The Indy meeting was covered by an Indy TV station. I was made aware of the meeting via a local news broadcast. I haven't found a website that shows a schedule of the meetings, so at this point I'm still relying on the local news. Based on the first meeting, they're informative and not a waste of time. A positive change from the new Secretary.
Indianapolis veteran, Sean Kendall client
If you want to attend a town hall meeting at your Regional Office or healthcare facility you will need to contact your local office and find out when they are scheduled. Prescott, Arizona, Twin Falls, Idaho, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have meetings scheduled for the first part of 2015. If you are interested, I encourage you to check out your local calendar as soon as possible.