Customer Service

Non-800 numbers for calling from abroad

I was out of the country with my dad when he had a medical emergency. He was carrying his Medicare and VA ID cards, and I tried to use them to contact the agencies to get information. Both the Medicare and VA cards include a toll-free telephone number to call for information. But toll-free numbers don't work outside the U.S. It wasn't just that they weren't toll-free -- the calls literally wouldn't connect.


This is why, if you look at a credit card, they generally have a toll-free (e.g. 1-800) phone number, as well as a phone number with a standard American area code (e.g. 202). A simple fix that the banks have known about for years -- time for the government to catch on!


I'm sure agencies think they are doing citizens a favor by offering a toll-free number. But if you're trying to call from outside the U.S., a toll-free number can be useless. Agencies should always offer a standard phone number alongside a toll-free number.


Idea No. 9