From the Field Staff

Field Service Program Director Ed Eckroth By Ed Eckroth

As Glenn Minney also referenced in his Legislative Update in this same issue of the Bulletin, the Field Service Program team is collaborating with several offices within the Department of Veterans Affairs in the sharing of information regarding Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the importance to blinded veterans of complying with those two sections of the law.

Sections 504 and 508 are essential in ensuring that all blinded veterans have reasonable access to VA programs.

Section 504 states that no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that either receives federal financial assistance or is conducted by any executive agency or the United States Postal Service. These regulations include the following requirements: reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations.  

BVA is working to bring about changes within VA. Specifically, we are advocating additional options when it comes to the methods that are used to communicate with veterans. Creation of an audio version of the VA Benefits guide is just one example.

Section 508 requires federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. BVA is working to educate VA on the need to be 508 compliant in such areas as VA websites and individual webpages, hospital machines such as kiosks, and in documents that affect benefits programs. 

The National Service Officers are also working directly with the VA 508 team on accessibility of veterans’ claims systems. If you or someone you know is utilizing a VA website and it is not reasonably accessible, and you can articulate these issues, please email them to me at eeckroth@bva.org and also Section508@va.gov. Please type “508 Compliance Issue” in the subject line. 

Together, we can make a difference. If you need assistance accessing eBenefits or My HealtheVet, we encourage you to reach out to VA and request that a Computer Access Training instructor provide you with training on these systems.