Helping a Brother Out
In this case, the brother that I was helping out was my step-father and the helping out was getting his Veterans Affairs Disability account set up. I was in Florida not too long ago visiting family. While I was there I wanted to get my step-father’s online VA account set up so he could check on the status of his disability claim (which I helped him file).
I tried for several hours on two separate evenings trying to prove that he was who he said he was. They required a copy of his driver’s license, which is a new government-issued “Real ID“. They required his SSN and his Birthdate, and then they wanted a copy of his VA ID card (they wanted two forms of ID) and they still couldn’t ID him. I mean this is a card that the VA issues and they didn’t like it as a form of ID. He and I had to answer a series of questions about where he lived and the like. And still, nope, they couldn’t accept him as who he was.
Now, keep in mind, that my step-father doesn’t know a keyboard from a mouse, he is 110% computer illiterate, so I offered to help him since I created my own account and I work in IT.
Then came the option to do a video call with an operator. I connected him and sat the laptop on his lap and helped him to make sure that he was in the camera. The VA operator was doing her job, but in typical government fashion, the process is all sorts of stupid. She asked him for the same information as we already submitted and they wanted him to hold his driver’s license up to the camera so they could take a picture of it. Now, I’m thinking to myself, this is such bullshit, as the picture that they will snag will not be very clear. After all the laptop camera is a 720p camera, and the connection with the VA was not very clear by itself. I helped him line up the driver’s license as he was holding it close to the screen, not the camera and the lady on the other end told me that I could not help him, he needed to do it himself.
Alright, stop the fucking presses and I do hope that someone who is part of the VA’s braintrust reads this and a light goes off for them. If you are not allowing assistance for the elderly population, then you are basically telling them to fuck off and if you are going to tell them to fuck off, then why even play the damn game in the first place. But let’s just put age out of this, what about health? What if my step-father, can’t hold up the card, what if he is blind, what if he is sick, what if, what if, what if? I get it, but you need to come up with a better process.
The VA has a really good reason for this level of security, and that is because there is a very large portion of seniors who get ripped off by their own families. My mother-in-law lived in a senior apartment complex, and she told us dozens of stories about how much the other residents are getting ripped off, by their families. When I say ripped off, I mean that the family takes all the money (Social Security, pension, and any other sources of income) and they would pay the rent and give the senior like $100 a month to purchase food and anything else they want. Keep in mind that most don’t drive, so if they want groceries, they have to pay for an Uber.
Alright back to this very convoluted process. The operator isn’t really much help, as she isn’t telling him to hold it higher or lower. Then she wanted to see the second form of ID, which was his VA Identification that he uses when he gets medical care from the VA. She starts to tell him that he will not be able to use that as a second form of ID, but before he gets a chance to say anything, she changes her mind. The video call took about 10 minutes and did not ask for anything that he hadn’t already added when we were uploading documents.
The one stupid lesson that I learned, was that when they want you to scan in a document or an ID card, they must be able to see the edges on the cards. Now I get why, but this isn’t clearly spelled out on the website. I think that they need to have a checklist and let the algorithm check off the items on the list when you upload a document that isn’t accepted.
Got to love the Government
The reason that they require to see the edges of the ID, is to help avoid fakes. The concept is good, but the application is entirely flawed. If I can photoshop an ID for you, then I’m certainly going to be able to photoshop the edges of his card as well. But I really don’t have a strong solution for them either, and I learned long ago to not complain about something unless you have a plan to make it work.
This is the same problem that the government has when you get your Real ID. But I will save that all for another post for another day.