In 2013, the world's attention was on the Department of Veteran Affairs as they faced issues of backlogged claims. At its peak, those seeking benefits for the first time, with cases that took more than four months to process, were in the hundreds of thousands.
For veterans with physical or financial limitations it can be very difficult to get to Little Rock in order to access claims or benefits promised to them after their service. Arkansas is hoping to be on the cutting edge of technology by offering veterans the help they need from the comfort of their home town.
For many Arkansas veterans, gone are the days of calling a 1-800 number with questions about claims and benefits.
The VA Regional Office in North Little Rock is now offering Telebenefits by video conference with veterans in their local clinic.
"When this concept came about, I was a little leery," said Antoine Gordon with the VA, “but now that I've had the chance to experience it, I understand that it is a very good program that's beneficial to all of our veterans."
For the first time, veterans outside of Little Rock will get to work with a representative face-to-face without having to travel.
"What I've found is, a lot of our older veterans really don't like the experiences they've had over the telephone, so when they get the opportunity to see the person they feel is associated with their claim, it eases their tension and I can answer a lot of those questions that the representatives on the phone may not be able to,” Gordon said.
Dalton Hatfield told us he was told about the Telebenefits program when he asked about filing a claim during a check up.
"It's less time off work and more money on the paycheck in the end," Hatfield said.
"We always knew these veterans were out there throughout the state. Now we can help them, and that makes us very proud,” said Lisa Bruen, Director of the VA Regional Office in North Little Rock.
She said Telebenefits is one way of righting some of the VA's past wrongs.
"We have made great strides reducing our backlog and we want to obviously continue that, but the relationship with the veteran is the next step," Bruen said.
Searcy and Texarkana's local clinics were the first to roll out Telebenefits at the beginning of the year. Tomorrow, the Pine Bluff clinic will get the capability.
At the first of the year, the VA will look at rolling out in Mena and in El Dorado.