Walden’s office hours around central, southern, and eastern Oregon signed up 795 veterans, demonstrating strong demand for access to eBenefits
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The VA is taking steps to simplify access to its eBenefits website following Rep. Greg Walden’s efforts to highlight the hurdles that veterans in rural Oregon face in signing up for the helpful new website.
“The VA is doing the right thing in increasing veterans’ access to eBenefits,” Rep. Walden said. “With all that our veterans have done for us, making them travel great distances to sign up for this service just doesn't make sense to me. That’s why I brought the signup effort directly to rural veterans in a series of office hours throughout central, southern, and eastern Oregon. We signed up 795 veterans, saving them in total many tens of thousands of dollars in travel expenses they would have needed to spend to get to Portland to sign up. It couldn’t have been more clear that there was a strong desire for more commonsense access to the website, and it’s good to see the VA take positive steps in that direction.”
Until now, veterans in Oregon were required to visit the Portland VA Regional Office in person to sign up for the new eBenefits website, which allows veterans to quickly track their claims and benefits with just the click of a mouse. For veterans outside of Portland and especially in the rural areas of central, southern, and eastern Oregon, the requirement to travel all the way to Portland simply to sign up is a prohibitive burden.
However, the VA has announced that it is now taking steps to simplify its signup process by launching a pilot program to allow some veterans to sign up for the website via telephone. Veterans calling the main VBA benefits toll-free number at 800-827-1000 now have a touch-tone path to eBenefits information and they can select an option for enrolling via telephone. This new method is only available for Veterans who are receiving VA benefit payments via electronic funds transfer.
The VA and the Defense Department also hope to allow online registration later this year for the highest level of access to the website.
The need for reform was highlighted when Rep. Walden approached the VA to launch a first-of-its-kind initiative to bring the signup process directly to rural veterans. Together, Rep. Walden’s office and the VA held office hours in Hood River, The Dalles, Hermiston, Pendleton, Milton-Freewater, Enterprise, La Grande, Baker City, Ontario, Burns, Prineville, Madras, Sisters, Redmond, Bend, La Pine, Christmas Valley, Lakeview, Grants Pass, Medford, and Klamath Falls.
In total, the effort signed up 795 veterans, the vast majority of which were unlikely to ever make the trip to Portland to sign up for the website in person. The program was so innovative and successful that it has since been replicated in other parts of the state.