The Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services is transitioning all Veteran Benefits Counselors (VBCs) to remote work. This change will allow VBCs to conduct Virtual VBC services not only from their homes, but more importantly, wherever their clients are.
“Virtual VBC appointments are nothing new to our VBCs,” said Scott Fincher, Assistant Deputy Director - Veterans Services Division. “We began our Virtual VBC program in 2017, with the goal of creating easier access to appointments for our clients.”
Fincher says VBCs conducted their pilot program with veterans living on the Hopi Reservation in 2017. Just over a year later, VBCs across Arizona were conducting virtual appointments.
“Virtual VBC gives veterans, service members and their families extended options for having an appointment with a VBC via a phone call, emails and virtually,” Fincher adds. “We are flexible and do what is easiest for the client.”
Fincher says all VBCs have been working remotely since March 2020. All physical offices will be closed by the end of October. ADVS has also implemented a VBC appointment call center to ensure clients can schedule the soonest appointment possible.
“This will be a change for some, but customers will be able to schedule a VBC appointment quickly and be served by any of our VBCs, instead of just the ones in their area,” Fincher says. “Since July 2020, we've seen about 400 new clients per month, while experiencing historically low wait times.”
Fincher says that while the COVID-19 pandemic has affected activities, such as; in-person outreach, home visits and itinerant visits, this new normal will allow more time for VBCs to travel deeper into Arizona’s communities than ever before.
“Our goal is to create easy access to services and for no Arizonan to be more than 50 miles from a VBC,” Fincher adds. “After the COVID-19 pandemic, we will set up itinerant sites to conduct appointments in communities where there’s need. Not having physical offices allows us the flexibility to send more VBCs into the community to serve clients.”
VBCs meet with over 3,000 veterans each month and collectively veterans using their services collect over $650 million tax free dollars annually from compensation, pension and survivor benefits.
To learn more about VBCs, visit our benefits page. Veterans, service members and their families can make an appointment by calling 602-535-1215.