How to Navigate the VA’s Online Portal for Travel Reimbursement (BTSSS)

In late-2020, the VA went live with a new online portal for Veterans to submit claims for travel reimbursement. The Beneficiary Travel Self-Service System (BTSSS; one could probably pronounce it as “Bitsssssss…”) was reportedly implemented to simplify the claim submission process for Veterans, caregivers, and beneficiaries. As with any new federal process, BTSSS both improves and complicates. In hopes of providing some clarity, see below for more information and steps to get set up in BTSSS. But, first, some benefits basics.

The VA’s Beneficiary Travel Program

The VA offers two types of travel pay reimbursement and each type his its own set of criteria; they are General Health Care Travel and Special Mode Transportation. General health care travel covers regular transportation like a car, plane, train, bus, taxi, or light rail while special mode transportation includes ambulances, ambulettes, or wheelchair vans. Both types require you to be traveling for care at a VA health facility or for VA-approved care at a facility in your community. Below is a table of requirements for each type that includes requirements for non-Veterans like caregivers, etc.

General Health Care Travel
(One of these must be true)
Special Mode Transportation
(ALL of these must be true)
Non-Veterans
(One of these must be true)
Have a VA disability rating of 30% or higher

Are travelling for treatment of a service-connected condition, even if your VA disability rating is less than 30%

Receiving a VA pension

Have an income below the maximum annual VA pension rate

Are traveling for a scheduled VA claim exam (aka C&P exam)

Are traveling to get a service dog

Can’t afford to pay for your travel
Eligible for general health care travel reimbursement

A VA provider determines your medical condition requires an ambulance or a specially-equipped van for travel

The VA has approved your travel in advance, unless the travel is for an emergency situation where a delay would threaten your life or health.
The person is your:

Family caregiver under the National Caregiver Program traveling to receive caregiver training or to support your care.

Medically required attendant traveling with you to support your care.

Transplant care door or support person.
If you’re traveling to get treatment at special disability rehab centers like spinal cord injuries, vision loss/blindness, or prosthetics rehab, you may be eligible if one of the following is true:
Need in-patient care
Are getting temporary lodging approved by the VA
VA may also pay for care for an allied beneficiary when the appropriate foreign government agency has authorized their care, or for the beneficiary of another federal agency when that agency has approved their care.

If you’ve reviewed the chart above and it looks like you may be eligible for submitting claims for travel, the next section will provide guidance on what you need before you file and how to get through the system.

As always, check out the VA’s Travel Pay Reimbursement page for the most updated information.

What You Need

  • A Smartphone or Computer with internet access.
  • DS Logon: You’ll need to have a Level 2 (Premium) DS Logon which is an account requiring verification. This is needed to be able to access BTSSS and should be the first thing to do before you begin your claim. It’s essentially another process in the process of prepping to use BTSSS. If you already have Premium account, you can start gathering documents for your claim. Guidance for those who need a Premium account follows:
    • Go to eBenefits (https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/), select “Log In”, and select “Need An Account?” to initiate a request for a Basic account.
    • To obtain a Premium account, you’ll need to verify your identity using of the following methods:
      • ID.me: A trusted partner that provides the strongest identify verification system available to prevent fraud and identity theft. You’ll need a smartphone or computer with an internet connections, your Social Security number, and proof of identify like a driver’s license/passport or be able to answer questions based on private and public data. More information here.
      • In-Person: You can verify your identity at the nearest VA regional office or health care facility. If using the regional office, you’ll need two forms of ID and make sure the office has your current address on file. If you use a health care facility, you’ll need to bring a completed VA Form 10-5345a-MHV and a government-issued photo ID like your Veteran Health ID Card (VHIC) or driver’s license. The regional office option can take up 7 to 12 business days whereas the health care facility takes less time. More information here.
      • By Phone: You can only use this method if you’ve received direct deposit payments like C&P payments. Call 1-800-827-1000 and say, “eBenefits.” You’ll need your full name, Social Security number, checking or savings account number, and the dollar amount of your most recent direct deposit payment. More information here.
  • Receipts: Before you begin, gather all receipts and information you’ve tracked for your travel claim. You’ll need to have them available for upload into your claim, this may mean scanning them in or taking a clear photo of each receipt supporting your claim. Receipts include the following –
    • Mileage to and from your appointment at a VA health care facility or a non-VA health care facility. Note that for non-VA facilities, travel reimbursement must be approved in advance except for certain emergency situations.
    • Tolls for bridges, roads, and tunnels: You may need to ask the toll worker for a receipt or, if you have an online toll payer like FastTrak, log into your account and download a receipt.
    • Parking: Always request a receipt at the kiosk or the toll-taker’s booth on the way out.
    • Taxi and plane fares: Request receipts or download them
    • Ticket costs for public transportation including train, subway, bus, ferry, or light rail
    • Transportation by a specially-equipped vehicle like an ambulance, wheelchair van, when needed and approved
    • Meals and lodging in some cases

How to Submit a Travel Claim in BTSSS for Veterans

Before submitting a claim, make sure you are within 30 days of your appointment. If you become eligible for travel reimbursement after your appointment, submit your claim within 30 days of when you become eligible.

  1. Go to AccessVA and select “I Am A Veteran.”
  2. Select “Veteran Travel Claim Entry” and you’ll have two options: DS Logon or VA PIV Card. Select DS Logon.
  3. Log in using your DS Logon information and select “Login.”
  4. Select the Security Image you chose during account setup and select, “Continue.” A screen titled, “Welcome to BTSSS!” will appear. Read the Terms and Conditions, select the checkbox and click, “Proceed to Profile Review.”
  5. Review your BT profile and ensure all the information is complete and correct. If changes are needed, input them and select “Request Profile Updates.” You’ll need to standby until you get notification that the changes have been made. They won’t take effect immediately as a Travel Clerk will need to make the changes. If all the information is correct, select “Proceed to My Dashboard.”
  6. From the Dashboard, you can create a claim using two methods: “My Appointments” or “My Claims.” Both methods will open the “Initiate a Claim” form.
    1. Using “My Appointments”: Click “Create Claim” in the “Associated Appointments” column.
    2. Using “My Claims”: Click “Create” in the upper right, then click “Create a Claim” for the appointment.
  7. Confirm or update the address on the page, then click, “Create Claim and Add Expenses.”
  8. On the “Claim Expenses” page, check the applicable boxes on the expense types. From here, you’ll have five slots to upload copies of receipts supporting the claim. Make sure the file (PDF/photo) shows the receipt clearly. Click on the “Add Attachments” buttons and add copies of your receipts.
  9. Print the claim by clicking “Print Claim” on the bottom of the “Claim Detail” page.
  10. Submit or Save the claim after you’ve added all supporting receipts and have verified the information is correct. Saving the claim for future submission will put the claim on hold if you need to gather receipts for attachment. A claim is not submitted until you actually certify it is complete, agree to the terms, and select the “Submit Claim” button. You will be taken back to “My Dashboard” where you can review the submitted claim’s status in “My Claims.”

For Further Assistance

#HowTo Apply for National & CA State Park Passes

Did you know that, based on your service-connection rating, you may qualify for lifetime passes to National & State Parks? Over the past few years, the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) has passed out information on programs allowing Veterans and Servicemembers free access to national and state parks. Here is a tutorial on how you can apply for one or both passes but, first, some information on eligibility and what you’ll need.

America the Beautiful Access Pass for National ParksDistinguished Veteran Pass for CA State Parks
What is it?A free, lifetime pass that provides admittance to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies.A free, lifetime pass that entitles the holder to the use of all basic facilities in California State Parks at no charge.
Eligibility Requirements🌲 U.S. citizen or permanent resident of any age
🌲 Have been medically determined to have a permanent disability* that severely limits one or more major life activities
🌲 Permanent resident of California
🌲 Must have been Honorably Discharged
🌲 For Disabled Veterans: Must have overall/combined rating of 50% or greater service-connected disability.
🌲 Must be a verified Prisoner of War (POW).
🌲 Must be a verified Medal of Honor recipient.
What You Need to Apply🌲 Proof of citizenship/residency: U.S. State/Territory-issued driver’s license, ID or birth certificate; U.S. passport or passport card or; permanent resident card (Green Card).
🌲 Proof of permanent disability: Statement signed by a licensed physician; Federally-issued document attesting to medical eligibility for benefits (i.e., VA-issued Summary of Benefits Letter**) or; State-issued document (i.e., vocational rehab agency) attesting to medical eligibility for benefits/services.
🌲 NPS Form 10-596, Application for Mail Order Sales of the America The Beautiful – The National and Federal Recreational Lands Access Pass
🌲 Valid CA driver’s license or ID showing current residence address.
🌲 Proof of CA residency: Current property tax bill or; CA voter registration card or; Form 1098T, Tuition Payments Statement or; signed/dated/notarized rental agreement/contract.
🌲 Disabled Veterans: Proof of service (i.e. DD Form 214*** or VA Summary of Benefits Letter**) and a current VA-issued letter dated within one year of application stating overall/combined rating of 50% or greater service-connected disability.
🌲 For POWS: VA-issued letter or copy of personnel records verifying POW status.
🌲 For Medal of Honor Recipients: VA issued-letter or copy of military personnel records verifying Medal of Honor recipient status.
🌲 DPR 619, Distinguished Veteran Pass Application
Fees (if applicable)$10.00 for processing online or for mail orders but the pass itself is free.None.
* A permanent disability is a permanent physical, mental, or sensory impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
** VA Summary of Benefits Letter can be obtained online using eBenefits: www.ebenefits.va.gov.
*** Request your DD Form 214 here: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records

Once you’ve got all your documents together, you can submit your application packets in a few ways: in-person or online for national and mail for both. Due to the pandemic, in-person access to a park representative may be limited or unavailable. Additionally, mail orders may take longer than usual due to the pandemic. The key is to be patient. Below are the details for each pass type.

America the Beautiful Access Pass for National ParksDistinguished Veteran Pass for CA State Parks
In-PersonYes, you can at site locations across the country. If you apply in person, you don’t need to fill out an application.Not an option: These passes are issued by mail only.
OnlineYes, you can at the USGS Store.Not an option: These passes are issued by mail only.
Mail Your Application Packet HereUSGS
Attn: Access Pass

Box 25286
Denver, CO 80225
California State Parks
Attn: Distinguished Veteran Pass Program

P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
How Long Will It Take To Get Your Pass?Please all allow 10-12 weeks for processing and shipping.Please allow 8-10 weeks for processing
Will I Need to Renew My Pass?No.Yes, although it’s a lifetime pass, you’ll need to renew every five (5) years. CA Parks will send you a new card prior to the expiration starting June 1, 2022.
Need More Information?Click here…Click here…

Once you get your passes, you’ll be able to go to any National Park across the nation or throughout the State of California for free. To be honest, it is worth the time and the $10 fee. Now, get your card, pack your gear, and get out there and explore!

#HowTo Get A Veteran Designation on Your CA Driver’s License/ID Card

In November 2015, the State of California started offering Veterans the option of getting the word “Veteran” imprinted on their CA driver’s license (DL) or ID card. Below are facts and the process of getting the designation put on to your DL/ID. By the way, you’ll need to start carrying a REAL ID driver license starting in October 2021; it’s suggested you apply for the “Veteran” designation BEFORE applying for a new REAL ID card.

What is the “Veteran” designation?The “Veteran” designation is essentially verified proof of your Veteran status that appears on the CA DL/ID. On the REAL ID card, the word “Veteran” appears between two stripes (red and blue).
Why is it something to consider?There are a few reasons why a “Veteran” designation is beneficial. First, it would inform medical workers and law enforcement of your Veteran status so appropriate treatment could be given if you have health issues related to the military like PTSD, TBI, MST, etc. Second, you would have ready proof of your military service should you need to provide it for accessing benefits. Third, think about it, when you go out for Veterans Day to take advantage of meals and deals, some places require you to show your VA ID or DD Form 214 or even a photo of you in your uniform. Say you forgot your VA ID and don’t carry your 214 around with you, the “Veteran” designation on your driver license would suffice.
When would it be useful?As stated above, when/if you are in a situation requiring medical care or with law enforcement, for going to appointments for benefits, and for accessing meals and deals.
Where do I go to get it?The designation itself is obtained from the CA DMV; the process of letting the DMV know you’d like the designation is a whole other deal. See below.
How do I go about getting it on my new license/ID?You’ll need to get the Member 4 copy your DD Form 214 and head to the nearest County Veteran Service Office (CVSO). The steps will be outlined below.

If you’ve reviewed the information above and feel that the “Veteran” designation is right for you, here are the steps you need to take to make that happen.

  1. Get Your DD Form 214 & Find the Member 4 Copy. If you have your 214 handy, look for the Member 4 copy by looking in the lower right of the page. If you have the Member 4 copy, you should be good to go. If you need your 214 and don’t have it available, you can request it here.
  2. Contact Your Nearest County Veterans Service Office (CVSO). Due to the pandemic, it would be a good idea to call ahead to see if you need to make an appointment or if you can walk in. You can call 1-844-737-8838 or check out web listings for CVSOs. You can also track down an email address for the county VSO and fire off a message.
  3. Take Your 214 to the CVSO. When you get visit the CVSO, you’ll be given a VSD-001, Veteran Status Verification Form, to fill out. Now, you can find one here to fill out in advance or fill one out when you get to the CVSO. The office will review the form and sign off on your Veteran status.
  4. Complete a Driver’s License Application. You can start your application online or fill one out when you visit the DMV.
  5. Make a DMV Appointment. You can call 1-800-777-0133 or make an appointment online.
  6. Take Your Verified VSD-001 & DL Application to the DMV. If you filled out your application online, you can take the confirmation and the VSD-001 to the DMV. If not, you will be asked to fill one out at the DMV office.
  7. Pay the One-Time $5 Designation Fee & Other Application Fees. Yes, there will be fees. Aside from the $5, there will the usual DMV fees associated with DL/ID renewal, change, or replacement. See here for those licensing fees.

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