by B. E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern:
This Veterans Day individuals who have served in the military have new options to view and manage their disability benefit claim decision notice letters. For the first time, Veterans who are blind or visually impaired can access these letters inside the VA Health and Benefits mobile app. The new feature allows users to view decision letters immediately, rather than having to wait ten days to receive letters in the mail as they did in the past. To access and listen to the content, blind Veterans can download a PDF file from the VA Health and Benefits mobile app or from their web browser and then use a third-party app, such as VoiceOver on iOS. The VA Office of Information and Technology (OIT) team takes an “’accessibility beyond compliance’” approach to ensure all Veterans have access to VA services. This means that accessibility is integral to the development process. In developing the feature for accessing decision letters, extensive feedback sessions were held among users with vision loss. The VA encourages Veteran participation in research and feedback on tools and services. This latest development follows an announcement earlier in the year that Veterans can find the full copy of their disability benefit claim decision notice letters electronically on VA.gov. While previous versions of the website allowed Veterans to access benefits summary letters, they could not receive the full copy of decision notification letters from their electronic claims folders. “’Veterans now have access to their benefits decisions anytime, anyplace.’” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “’VA disability benefits can also open the door to other federal and state benefits, so quick and easy access to a decision means quicker access to the additional benefits Veterans deserve.’” For more information, read the VA News article announcing that Blind Veterans can now read decision letters as well as the earlier news that Veterans can now access their disability benefit decisions online, which includes links to checking the status of claims. For more information on how to sign up for a research feedback session, please visit the Veteran Usability website.