Saturday, April 20, 2024


Another week gone by, and I have once again procrastinated until the last minute to write this article. To be fair to myself, I had some higher priority tasks to accomplish. At the time of writing, today is Halloween and I hope to provide you with some valuable tricks (and tips) to get the most out of your Veterans benefits.

While your County Veterans Service Officer (CVSO) is your one-stop-shop, real-person to interact with for benefits, we are limited as to what information we can access regarding application and claims status. We have access to disability and pension information, but al­most no access into VA Health Care. We are not able to schedule health care appointments or renew prescriptions.

CVSOs (who are also Veterans) also have issues getting through to the appropriate of­fice and waiting on hold. We do not have se­cret-squirrel phone numbers. I have waited on hold for 45 minutes only to be told the ques­tion cannot be answered because I am not the Veteran.

Here are the two primary numbers for VA Health Care in our area. The national hotline for general questions regarding VA Health benefits: 1-800-698-2411. The number to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center (VAMC) which is the call center for all NE MN VA clin­ics: 1-866-414-5058. To reduce the options you must select, press 0 (zero) to speak to a live operator. You may request to be connected to “scheduling” to make an appointment or to “pharmacy” to ask questions about a prescrip­tion.

If you have a need for medical equipment or services, then you should be asking or re­questing it from your VA primary care physi­cian. Call to schedule an appointment or leave a message detailing your need. If your VA doc­tor deems it a medical necessity, then you may get the request authorized (at little or no cost to you). You will not know until you ask… your VA doctor.

Everyone wants to know the status of their disability compensation claim. You may check online at VA.gov or call the national hotline number 1-800-698-2411 (yes, the same number works for VA health and benefits). Your call is documented in your claim and may even give it a nudge to get it moving again. Your CVSO can look at the status but may not be able to deter­mine the reason for the status.

Most Veterans should be familiar with “hur­ry up and wait”. The same is often true when it comes to VA benefits. Please add an extra spoonful of patience to your morning cup of coffee.

Brad Anderson and Melissa Crandall are the Lake County Veterans Service Officers and can be reached at 218.834.8326 or cvso@co.lake.mn.us

Karen Christianson is the Cook County Vet­erans Service Officer and can be reached at 218.387.3639, or karen.christianson@co.cook.mn.us

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