A visit to the website of the Department of Veteran Affairs, which is more commonly known as the VA, could lead one to assume that there are an abundance of benefits available to US veterans. The site provides information on employment, housing, health care, education, training, insurance, and more — all of which is available to veterans in varying degrees.
However, if you ask a vet about the VA, there is a good chance they will give you a less than glowing review about how the VA has served them. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in late 2019, fewer than half of all veterans reported receiving excellent or good service when they approached the VA regarding benefits.
Why the disconnect? Is the VA website packed with false promises, or do veterans have wrong ideas about what benefits they should be receiving from the VA? One expert on the matter believes there are a few key misconceptions that keep veterans from experiencing the maximum benefits the VA offers to them.
“Does the VA have a lot to offer to veterans? Absolutely,” says Chas Sampson, CEO of Seven Principles Group, “but there are some large knowledge gaps about how those benefits are accessed. As a result, many of them remain untapped for most veterans throughout their entire lives.”
Chas is a former US Army Iraqi War Veteran who also worked as a Decisions Officer and Rating Veterans Service Representative, or Rater, for the VA. While at the VA, Chas became intimately familiar with the process that veterans must go through to apply for and secure benefits. After leaving the VA, he founded Seven Principles to help his fellow veterans empower themselves and improve their lives. Chas and his team consult with veterans on how to effectively transition from military service and maximize their VA benefits.
“The VA provides a ton of opportunities for veterans, from job references to loans for small business owners to help for veterans’ families,” Chas asserts. “But most veterans don’t know about these things unless they are specifically looking for them, or are being advised on them.”
A key misconception that veterans have about the VA is that most of the requests for benefits will be denied arbitrarily. Chas says that is not the case. In fact, he says that the standard for VA Raters when considering benefit claims is, “Grant if you can; deny if you must.”
“Our attitude was basically that we want to give the benefits away,” explains Chas. “I think Raters have a bad rap. People think they are trying to deny every claim, but this just isn’t the case. Most of us were happy to be able to give a veteran the benefits to which they were entitled.”
Chas has been able to use his understanding of the inner workings of the VA to achieve a 98 percent success rate for Seven Principles’ clients as they seek VA benefits. He believes that private organizations like his can bridge the gap between veterans and the VA, dispelling misconceptions, simplifying the claims process, and getting veterans the benefits to which they are entitled.
“There are just certain things about benefits and the process that the VA is not going to disclose with the average veteran who is exploring options,” Chas says. “That is not their function. However, if you bridge the gap through public and private partnerships, you can provide a process for educating more military members on how to transition out of the military and become successful.”
For those who wish to pursue benefits without the aid of an organization like Seven Principles, Chas says the key is to become a student of the game. He recommends veterans approach their pursuit of benefits in the same way they approached their military training.
“When we join the military, we get basic training, but we do not stop there. We continue to learn and become proficient at all of our knowledge, skills and abilities,” Chas shares. “Applying the exact same pattern to understanding VA benefits will serve veterans. Veterans need to dig into the VA. Those who benefit the most are those who become students of the game, and really understand the VA benefits and what they can do with them.”