VETERANS CORNER: VA offers new phone apps

By Tom Mastaglio and Laurie Clay

This month we feature information about new Veterans Affairs (VA) electronic capabilities, begin what will be a continuing effort to identify local businesses that give military/veteran discounts, and highlight upcoming veterans-focused activities in our community.

The VA recently released a phone app called VA Health and Benefits.  It is available on App Stores for I-Phones/I-Pad and Google Play Store for Android devices.  This App will provide veterans who are registered with the VA many capabilities that previously required accessing multiple websites.  Once set up by the veteran, it will provide access to your personal information at the VA, such as disability rating, appointments, claims, downloadable letters which summarize your benefits, and one that verifies your disability for other purposes, such as local tax relief.  Also, you can get a Civil Service Preference letter and proof of service card for obtaining discounts at merchants who offer them to veterans.  I (Tom) because of my background in developing user interfaces, have been a vocal critic of many VA attempts to set up veteran-friendly (they have turned out to be anything but) on-line systems.  Now if they will only add the capability to file for travel expense on the App vice having to use the onerous BTSS.  We highly recommend you download this App and explore its functionalities. 

A second App now available is VA Video Connect (VVC); it will provide you the capability to have a video appointment with your Primary Care Physician or Specialist at the VA.  Of course, it depends on your healthcare provider at the VA to schedule your appointment as one using video.  We suggest, if travel is an issue, that you discuss using this App for appointments that do not require a physical examination.

We have been working to identify any local business that offers discounts to Veterans; the discount varies by merchant.  Contact each one you are considering using for specifics.  This month we feature some in the automotive sector that have been identified to us:  Advance Auto, Auto Zone, Cofer Auto, NAPA, Rays Discount Auto, and Silas Auto & Detailing.  Please email Tom if you are a merchant in this sector and want to be included in future lists.  Don’t hesitate to ask at any merchant if they offer discounts.  

The next several months offer a number of key patriotic holidays, some feature military and veterans.  We are listing them here for your future planning purposes.

  • Armed Forces Day, May 18th.  Local military facilities will likely host events which allow the public to pay tribute to military personnel serving in the Armed Forces.  Check local papers, including the Flagship, for specific activities.
  • Memorial Day is Monday May 27th this year.  The Legion and VFW jointly hold a ceremony at the Smithfield Veterans Memorial at 11 AM to honor our fallen comrades.  There will be music by the Smithfield HS Band, an honor guard salute, and sounding of taps along with speeches.  Plan to be there with your fellow veterans and citizens to honor our fallen comrades.  It is open to public and free of charge.
  • Flag Day, Friday June 14th annually encourages Americans to honor the Flag.  The American Legion holds a flag retirement ceremony to coincide with Flag Day.  If you have flags that need  to be honorably retired and disposed of, contact the Legion at 757 357-9239.  Watch local papers for details about the ceremony if you would like to participate.

As always your feedback and suggestions are welcome, send them to either of us.

Thomas W. Mastaglio is an Army veteran who serves as media officer at American Legion Post 49. He can be reached at tom.mastaglio@outlook.com.

Laurie Clay is an Army veteran who serves as service officer at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8545. She can be reached at serviceofficer@vfwva.org.

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