Town hall meetings

Timothy Johnson served this country for 25 years in the Army. As a disabled Veteran he came to the a recent town hall to ask me and congressional aides in attendance about a piece of legislation in which he is interested. He spent several minutes talking with us after the town hall about why it was so important to him. Then he stepped into the claims clinic to speak with a claims expert about an appeal on his claim. As he was leaving the town hall, he asked about vocational rehabilitation and employment, saying he had heard of the program from other Veterans. So he spoke to our specialist and now has a follow-up appointment Sept. 16.

“They explained the appeals process to me,” he said to a member of my staff over the phone. “I walked out satisfied. I was happy with the answers and with the service. I am content.”

Mr. Johnson is just one of more than 70 Veterans who went through the claims clinic at this town hall that was held for Veterans, their families and survivors. Many Veterans have had challenges with VA. I was concerned that when we held our town hall, Veterans would air their private medical information publicly since VA compensation, insurance, pension and vocational rehabilitation claims are based on medical disabilities.

Still, I wanted to afford Veterans the chance to share the concerns they have on their claims and not discourage an open and honest conversation with the very public all VA employees serve. I asked my employees if they would they would support our town halls and work with Veterans to answer their claims questions during a claims clinic. The response was overwhelming. The majority of our claims processors don’t work with Veterans every day, so they were excited to work directly with Veterans.

More than 50 percent of employees at the Veterans Benefits Administration are Veterans themselves. At our regional offices nearly 40 percent of employees are Veterans; many more like me are closely related to Veterans.

Anthony Hill, a Marine Corps Veteran, left the town hall with my business card. He was medically separated from the Department of Defense several years ago, and for some reason, we have been unable to obtain records of the medical disability from the Department of Defense. Mr. Hill also visited the claim clinic for a compensation claim.

“The people there are Veterans and they have been on the same road and are compassionate and that came into play,” he said.

When asked if they would recommend the experience to other Veterans, both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hill were quick to reply.

“Go to the town hall and clinic,” said Mr. Johnson. “This is an opportunity. You can file a claim. That room should have packed — standing room only. If you weren’t there, don’t complain. If you care, then you should be there.”

“Absolutely, without a doubt,” Mr. Hill said. “If a Vet does not show up and does not participate, how is anything going to get accomplished? Sometime you have to go to the top for things to take place. I’m extremely grateful for the town hall the other night. It was a blessing and a long time coming.”

It certainly was. I hope to conduct more town halls in the future where you can attend and sit down with a claims expert who can answer questions on your specific claim. If you are interested in seeing what benefits you are eligible for, come talk with us.

For a list of upcoming regional benefit office town halls, visit the VA website.

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Published on Sep. 12, 2014

Estimated reading time is 3 min.

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  1. Ed October 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Phoenix VA RO town hall must have been a secret. Cancelled one, then had another on invisible to vets notice. I have heard they have courses on how to treat Vets. They teach that we just complain and rehash the same things over and over. Maybe if someone listened and acted, we wouldn’t have to rehash anything. If a mistake on a claim is made, don’t tell us to appeal, fix it then. If you are working a claim, work it! Do a thorough job and work the whole claim. Don’t make us file a NOD and wait years, get it right the first time. If you see an error fix it! If you see something we missed, help us. Work for us for a change. YOU are not the disability POLICE, and WE are not the disability CROOKS. We are not the enemy! We were your buddies, your friends, your brothers and sisters in arms. We had your backs, now have ours, please!

    • Sandra Demoruelle October 1, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Doesn’t sound like they are doing a very good job rebuilding “trust”!! So much for the much bragged about “townhall meetings”.

  2. Danny September 16, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Prescott Arizona VA had their town hall. It ended up to be nothing more than a self righteous bragging session! they hand pick a few questions that they had people write down on cards and answered the ones that glorified them. They spent over an hour bragging about themselves leaving very little time for questions from the veterans.I’m willing to give Mr McDonald the new secretary a try but his first best shot was not a very good one.

  3. BART IANNACCONE September 14, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    This is my first digital comment to the VA , I want to know when will guam be included in any agent Orange exposure legislation .I’ve been denied several times by the VA AMERICAN legion,D A V .ALL BECAUSE OF THE ” cannot confirm or deny ” the use of agent Orange during the Vietnam war. If I was the only one ,then I would believe the DOD ,but I don’t believe that the military sprayed A O Everywhere else except on guam.there are about three hundred service men like me who were stationed on guam during the Vietnam war that have the same cancers and diabetes that service men got in Vietnam . I’m not a happy camper now I’m physically disabled with incurable blood cancer that limits my ability to walk only a few hundred paces before my heart starts to race in my chest and I start gasping for air ,long walks on the beach ,is not on my dating addition to incurable blood cancer( WALDENSTROM MACRO GLOBULAR ANEMIA ) I also was told that I have diabetes mellitus type 2 ,all the good tasting food is off limits for the rest of my life .so I say again to the DOD man walk a mile in my boots .Sincerely B P I .

    • linda September 16, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Sorry, my husband is almost in the same problems, we can’t get benefits because they can’t decide if he has Agent Orange I know he has it. but I’m still trying. They don’t treat some veterans right, but others get what they need. I’m tired of the run around. right now can’t get doctors to call me about his condition

  4. JACK September 14, 2014 at 12:41 pm


  5. N. Wayne September 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    I served in VN from 4/65 to 4/67 as a Huey Crew Chief on both Gun Ships and “Slicks”. I have been shot down, the rocket pod on my side carrying 70#WP was set on fire by enemy rounds, I received my 4th Air Metal with “V” devise by volunteering for a Med-Evac/Resupply mission, and I was in a building the VC bombed, one afternoon, three Americans and one Vietnamese baby died.
    I have two appeals; Bi-lateral hearing loss, 40db R, 60db L. The VA claims is not service connected. Also an appeal for a rate increase for my PTSD, both are over 108-weeks old, both have been certified, just waiting-waiting-waiting. I have been hospitalized four times for symptoms related to my PTSD (7+weeks). I was told by regional that there are 3,000 cases ahead of mine.
    I also have two additional claims that are “Fully developed” and now ready for rating as of 6-weeks ago, just waiting-waiting-waiting.
    The remark earlier, “…..if you care, then you should be there…..”. Is nothing but pure “BS”, there was no notice given by Regional, DVA, FDVA, or the Bill Young Facility (Bay Pines). The only notice was a single paragraph in a local section of the newspaper (Seminole section) the morning of the Town House Meeting. If proper notice had been given, like a typical appointment reminder, you could not fit all of the people that would have shown-up into any room or hall on the campus. I WOULD HAVE BEEN THERE.
    Mr. McDonald, if you believe what you are being told about the Bill Young Medical Facility from 9/3/2014, you and the President are being set-up!!

  6. linda September 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm


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