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Assisting Idaho Veterans

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Thank you to the more than 1,000 of Idaho's veterans who have taken the time to share their experiences with veterans' services through a survey I recently conducted.  As I look carefully at this valuable input and share the results, I am struck by the volume of survey respondents who are seeking assistance with specific U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)-related cases.  This increase in VA-related casework speaks to the need to continue to work to ensure that veterans programs are best meeting the needs of Idaho veterans.

At times, I am contacted by Idahoans who find themselves in need of help with a personal issue that involves contacting a federal agency.  I contact the agency on their behalf to assure that they have been given every consideration available by law.  Nineteen percent of the survey participants have asked for further assistance with personal VA-related issues.  During August through October, the two months the survey was open and immediately following, forty-four percent of incoming cases pertained to the VA.  Overall, open cases have increased 117 percent from this time last year, and VA cases alone have increased by 519 percent within the same time period.    

Nearly half of the veterans' casework opened during the survey relates to service-connected disability claims.  Twelve percent of respondents seek assistance with appointment scheduling, including rescheduling surgeries that have been postponed.  Ten percent have issues regarding the quality of care received through the VA.  Four percent of respondents seek assistance in each of the following areas: requests for reimbursement for non-VA treatment; survivor benefits and dependency claims; and VA medical care access issues, such as the enrollment process.  Three percent of respondents need help with communication frustrations, and another 3 percent are experiencing delayed processing of retroactive pay for benefits.  I welcome the opportunity to assist with these and other issues as we work to make any needed improvements to veterans programs. 

From the onset of the survey, I have endeavored to help the VA better serve veterans.  The broad scope of services the VA provides requires it to be responsive to the ever-changing needs of veterans.  The information I received from Idahoans will help inform officials in Washington, D.C., on the way the VA works and where it can improve.  Those who use the programs best understand the inner workings of VA programs, and veterans' experiences will help VA officials take note of the changes necessary to meet the challenge of delivering service in the 21 st Century.

The extent of those seeking assistance with personal casework demonstrates areas of needed improvement.  In the weeks ahead, I will be sharing more about the results of the survey and the changes needed to address concerns and better meet the needs of our nation's veterans.  We must continue to shape veterans policy into a system that provides the best assistance for those who have met our nation's call of duty. 

If you find yourself in need of assistance with a specific agency, please contact the staff in one of my regional officesto discuss your situation, after which I will contact the agency on your behalf.  While I cannot direct a certain outcome, I can help communicate the circumstances and request that the agency take appropriate actions to assist you.  Additionally, due to jurisdictional constraints, I can only assist with federal agencies.  If your concern is with a state or local entity, you may wish to contact the appropriate jurisdiction for these issues.  More informationregarding assistance, including contact information, the required privacy release formand frequently asked questions, can be accessed through my website, at

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