Selecting the Right Representative, Part 2 – Why You Should Not Give Out Your E-Benefits Information
Christine Clemens: Hello and welcome. Thank you for joining us for this CCK Live special edition. My name is Christine Clemens and I’m here with Christian McTarnaghan. We’re both attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm and Kilpatrick. Today, we will be discussing best practices in representation and why you should not give out your eBenefits information. It’s important to keep that information private. I’m going to hand it over to Christian to talk a little bit about what eBenefits is.
Christian McTarnaghan: Yes, great. Thanks, Christine. eBenefits is a secure web portal that’s been created by VA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and DOD, the Department of Defense, that allows veterans, service members and their families some self-service capabilities in managing VA and military benefits. This portal allows all those groups — veterans, service members, their families — to check the status of VA claims and even apply for benefits and a lot more things. It also provides users with information and links to other resources about military and veterans benefits.
Christine: It’s sort of a pathway for veterans to connect to all of these services and benefits that they may need, right? It’s important to keep that login information confidential. The eBenefits account includes highly personal detailed information such as contact information, insurance information, your social security number, benefits information. That includes how much money you’re receiving in benefit, what benefits you’re receiving, compensational words, and medical history and appointment. All layers, different layers of information that people would want to keep private.
Christian: Yes, and because of who it was intended to be used by, who it was set up for — the veteran, the service member, your spouse or something to that effect — you can see all the information once you have that login information. That’s why it’s really important that you don’t give your login details or sign over or access your eBenefits to really anyone that you don’t want to have access to all of those things. They’ll have access to all of your personal information and it could make you a target for fraud.
Christine: I think that’s pretty critical. Any representative who requires you to give them access to your eBenefits account should be a huge red flag. Accredited representatives get access to the veterans’ file without needing eBenefits access. They are able to see on the benefit side what claims were filed, what medical appointments the veteran attended or what any of those records say. There’s really no need for anyone who’s representing you to have that specific log in information. The terms of eBenefits itself has you certify that you’re the person logging in. An organization or somebody who says they’re going to represent you who takes your login information is essentially falsifying that they are certifying that they’re you every time that they log in. Again, an accredited representative would never have the need to do this nor should they be asking you for this.
Christian: Yes. What’s more is the information on eBenefits is the most up-to-date that sort of they this self-service service portal to have, but it’s not always the most up-to-date actual information about your case. It can be inaccurate and it can be delayed. You might have gotten a grant of an increased rating and received the rating decision, but it’s not necessarily reflected in eBenefits right away. I mean, I have clients that call me all the time. I got this piece of paper that says I got it, but I looked on my eBenefits and it doesn’t say anything yet. The most effective rep is going to have access to your actual C file and wouldn’t be really interested in what’s going on in eBenefits. Also, we just wanted to know might help that access is another topic we just want to hit really quickly. This way to access your medical records is something an accredited representative wouldn’t need because they would be able to have access to your C file, which is a more up-to-date version of everything that’s in your record for VA purposes.
Christine: Yes. You mentioned that inaccuracies and delay. You gave the example that someone will call and say, “Hey. I have this paper and this is what it says and that’s different from what’s reflected in eBenefits.” The other thing is the information that’s in eBenefits regarding claims and appeals can be very limited. Even if it is updated timely, it might just say that the claim was closed. People will call us and say, “Well, what happened? It says my claim is closed.” We can look in the VBMS, VA’s benefits management system, and see what the actual decision says. We have the most informative information on what’s happening in the case. In terms of medical records, we can certainly always request those. VA can request those. Again, just to reiterate, there is never a need for an accredited representative, whether it’s an accredited attorney, an accredited agent, or a veteran service organization, to have that information. You want to think about, too, what happens if you don’t like, the way that someone’s representing you and now, they have your personal information and your login information. How would you be able to keep that information secure? Once it’s out there, it becomes hard to kind of rein it in a little bit. Christian, did you have anything else to add about this topic?
Christian: I think you really put the point on it perfectly. It’s just once you give this information out, you can’t necessarily get it back. Just remember that there are more effective ways to be able to get this information than eBenefits that are really made for you.
Christine: Thanks so much, Christian. For more information on eBenefits, visit our blog at cck-law.com/blog. Also, check out our YouTube channel for more videos. Thank you so much for tuning in.
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