Veterans who use the Department of Veteran Affairs GI Bill Help Portal to ask questions about their benefits or regularly access VA information through the Information Routing & Inquiry Service (IRIS) must use a new system starting in October, officials announced on the VA website.
Currently, users can view Frequently Asked Questions, or ask specific questions to VA employees for most benefits through IRIS or can do the same for their GI Bill benefits through the separate GI Bill Help Portal. IRIS does not require a log-in, while the GI Bill portal does. VA officials did not say how many accounts are impacted.
But starting Oct. 18, the new unified online system, known as AskVA, will process all inquiries related to VA benefits and services, replacing those old services.
Users will still be to contact the VA via telephone at 800-827-1000 for general benefit questions or 888-442-4551 for GI Bill questions. The web portals, however, allow users to create and keep a written record of their contact with the VA.
Users will be able to log in to one system to submit questions about any VA benefit without having to worry about figuring out which office to contact, something not readily available now. Users will also be able to see an historical record of all their communications with the VA through the new system. Users who are logged in to the VA.gov website using a premium MyHealtheVet account, a premium DS Logon account or a verified ID.me account should be automatically logged in to the new AskVA system without any further action. They will then be able to submit questions directly to the VA.
Those who use the current GI BIll Help Portal will see the biggest change. That service will cease to exist, and all accounts used for that service will no longer be active with none of the information in the old system being moved to the new one. Veterans with GI Bill related questions will either be required to create a new verified account using one of the existing verification systems, or if they already have a verified account with VA.gov, MyHealtheVet or eBenefits they will need to login to that account to use the new system.
Once a verified user enters the AskVA system, much of their personal information will be prefilled from their master record, and they will be able to view all previous questions and discussions with the VA that have been submitted through the system, submit new questions, or respond to previous discussions.
Users can still access the new Q&A system without a verified account, but they will not be able to ask any questions concerning their individual benefits unless they verify their identity using one of the existing verification systems, according to the VA announcement. This is designed to protect personal information.
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