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VA Improves Benefits Notifications For Visually Impaired Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs system is designed for veterans to submit claims for benefits, have those claims reviewed and approved (or denied), and the VA has a standardized notification process for those decisions.

The notification phase of the process typically includes the physical mailing of on-paper VA benefits “decision letters” announcing the application was approved or denied. This process left out blind veterans and visually impaired vets who have difficulty reading paper documents.

In 2023, the Department of Veterans Affairs took steps to end that oversight. In May, the VA added these decision letters to the notifications provided by the VA Health and Benefits mobile application.

Blind and visually impaired veterans can use a third-party text-to-speech app to have these decision letters read to them via the app.

VA Health And Benefits Mobile App Decision Letter Notification Process: How it Works

VA.gov describes the functionality of this service, noting that a third-party text-to-speech app is required such as Speechify, Murf, Voice Dream Reader, or other apps.

Some may not be compatible with the VA Health and Benefits documents, and some trial-and-error may be needed. “Blind Veterans can now download a PDF file from the VA Health and Benefits mobile app or by using their web browser and then using a third-party app, such as VoiceOver on iOS, to listen to the content in the PDF file.”

This option, VA.gov says, is made possible “by VA’s commitment to design accessibility of the VA Health and Benefits mobile app.”

Related: Comprehensive VA Benefits Guide

How VA Mobile App Notification Differs

The app-based notification option is an improvement over “previously waiting ten days to receive letters in the mail” according to VA.gov.

According to user testimony at the VA official site, before this option, “No blind Veteran can read” the decision letter on paper. “It’s a huge document sent to you, and someone has to read it to you.” Being electronically notified eliminates the waiting time for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver it physically.

How the VA Decided to Implement the Service

The Department of Veterans Affairs solicited feedback from visually impaired veterans after having test groups try out the app. According to VA.gov, “Assistive technology users accounted for 22 percent of sessions in 2022, and 23 percent so far in 2023.”

Enhancing accessibility for VA benefits without waiting for a Congressional or DoD mandate helps guarantee that “VA products and services are accessible and usable by all Veterans with a wide range of disabilities,” according to the VA.

Where To Find The VA Health and Benefits App

You can download the VA Health and Benefits app at the official site. You must download a compatible third-party text-to-speech app from the Apple Store, Google Play, or other third-party app sellers.

Related: Comprehensive VA Benefits Guide

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.