As some in the field of VA law had been predicting, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which temporarily shut down several of its 50+ Regional Offices in recent years due to deficiencies in the processing of veterans’ disability claims, has announced a plan to streamline the VA Regional Office system by creating five Regions. Our office believes this is the first step to the VA creating five super Regional Offices where decisions on VA claims will be made. The creation of one VA map featuring five centralized offices, with standardized training in not only the VA claims process but also customer service, could result in the permanent closing of some, if not all, current VA Regional Offices. For example, the Denver Regional Office is losing its lease this summer, and there are no plans yet for a new location.
“The regional alignment,” Secretary McDonald says, is aimed toward “empowering veterans to interact with one VA. Ultimately this reform will improve the veteran experience by enabling veterans to more easily navigate VA and access their earned care and benefits.”
A map of the VA’s five proposed “MyVA” regions can be seen here. It has been predicted by experts in VA law that the offices will be located in Oakland (California), San Antonio (Texas), Newman (Georgia), Janesville (Wisconsin) and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), although the VA's new map has stars, indicating "VBA Area Offices" over the Phoenix, Denver, St. Louis, Nashville and Philadelphia areas. As the New York Times pointed out last week, VA currently has nine organizational maps and many websites, most of which require different usernames and passwords; downsizing to five Regional Offices, along with streamlining online services, could make the VA claims process, as well as accessing healthcare services, easier for veterans.
In a conference call with reporters, MyVA director Scott Blackburn commented, "The regions, when complete and fully mature, will allow us to create a more cohesive and singular department from the veteran perspective. VA components will have better internal coordination and the ability to leverage shared services and experiences. The second benefit of the regionalization will allow for the VA to begin enhancing the overall veteran experience. This will allow us to provide customer-service training and enhanced veteran focused capabilities across the department through a centralized office and coordination."