I have to admit that when I heard that the VA has a benefits website I greeted the news without enthusiasm. I had already had experience with the VA’s MyHealtheVet website, and for all its promise, turned out to be a marginally convenient way to renew prescriptions. It improved a bit when it began to let us vets send emails to our primary care physician teams, but it still was pretty lacking in utility. It rated slightly above a yawn on my cool-o-meter. So the idea of a veterans benefits website seemed like a good idea, but I expected a similar lackluster amount of utility from it.
I was wrong.
The eBenefits website, also called the DoD Self-Service Portal, turned out to be a very useful website indeed. Getting a login was a little tedious, but unlike the MyHealtheVet site, you could go through their account setup in a single sitting, and without having to personally present yourself at a VA facility for in-person confirmation of your desire for access. It took me about a half an hour to complete the process. But once I did get my access approved and created a login, the world of VA benefit applications, status checks, and pointers to most, if not all benefits specific to my personal case were available to me.
It’s not the fastest website in the world either. Like the MyHealtheVet website, you can head into the kitchen and grab a coke from the ‘fridge and come back just in time to see your desired page displayed. I’m not sure if the server equipment is overloaded or if the Internet connection to the servers uses a cow path instead of wires, but if they wanted to improve the websites, speed increase would be my first choice in suggesting improvement. However, once logged in and looking at your personal dashboard, the world of the VA as it applies to you unfolds before your very eyes.
I could see every application for benefits I had turned in, what their status was, and information about the claims at the click of a mouse. I was impressed, and that’s unusual for me when it comes to the mystery that is the VA benefits administration system. Last October, I needed a copy of my VA certificate of eligibility for a VA home loan guarantee. It took me about three minutes to make my desire known to the system, and the following day my certificate was waiting for me in the secure mailbox of the message system, ready to download. The idea of getting a completed form from the VA overnight is like expecting it to snow midday in a Death Valley summer. But sure enough, my claim was processed with relative light speed in contrast to my other VA dealings.
I was able to look and see every single payment the VA made to me and what it was for, and I was able to track all of my claims and see the status of each one, all with one or maybe two clicks of the mouse. Veterans used to dealing with the VA enter a dreamlike state using this website because it’s kind of unreal how it cuts to the chase. When I was logging off, I was asked to complete a survey and decided to answer their questions. I didn’t have to, participation was voluntary. All of their questions were oriented towards how they might improve the website, and I found, much to my chagrin, that I was hard pressed to reasonably find fault with it. My only suggestion was finding a way to make it run a little faster. All in all, that’s a petty complaint. It speaks pretty highly on their behalf that a Professional Critique Technician (chronic complainer) like myself couldn’t find fault with their website.
It not only spoke to the benefits I was already availing myself of, but explaining to me all of the benefits that I specifically was likely eligible for, applying my personal information to their displays of possibilities. In other words, the website customizes itself to the veteran rather than just giving broad and generalized information usually found on va.gov websites. When it comes to VA benefits, I strongly recommend that veterans check this website out. It’s definitely worth the mild tedium of signing up, if for nothing more than the list of links it provides for not only federal benefits, but veteran benefits offered by the individual states.
Veterans should check it out.