Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation Veteran of the Week this week is Lanny Nellis of Norman, Oklahoma.  Mr. Nellis served in the Korean War while serving in the United States Air Force.  Thank you for your service, sir!

Of the 279 veterans and surviving spouses we assisted last week, there were veterans from California, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Colorado, Florida, and Indiana.  I would bet a dollar that there is no other place in this United States of America where veterans would travel to for help with their VA claims and questions.  A large number of visitors also keep our drivers very busy.  Last week they volunteered 50 hours transporting 17 folks 1,310 miles, setting a record.  Maybe we are doing something right for the men and women who served in the military.  All I know is that what we do is very rewarding for those of us who are making a difference in the lives of the men and women who have served.  On any given day we receive hundreds of calls from veterans and surviving spouses who are in need of assistance of VA benefits.  One of the most common things I hear from veterans is that they went to the VA for assistance with medical care and were told they did not qualify.  Too often folks are told you make too much money to qualify for VA medical care.  What they are not told is that a veteran who has a service-connected disability is eligible for VA health care.  Over the years we have helped thousands of men and women who were in the National Guard or Reserves to receive both VA health care and VA compensation for any injuries that occurred while on active duty or during their annual training.  The most common disability that may be service connected is Hearing Loss and Tinnitus.  For those of you who would like more information please visit us any Tuesday or Thursday morning for help filing your VA claim for benefits.Last week we made three trips to the VA Regional Office in Muskogee to represent veterans and surviving spouses with their appeals for VA benefits. By the time we drove there on Monday, Wednesday and Friday plus assisted over two hundred and seventy veterans on Tuesday and Thursday we were ready for the weekend.  We were very pleased with the way all three cases were handled veterans and spouses who were denied their claims for disability.  I believe all three of them will be approved for the benefits previously denied by VA.  Of the several different ways for the hearing to be held, we chose to use the video hearing held in Muskogee as that was the quickest and most convenient way for us and the claimants.  As most of the claims we file are approved, I think three trips to Muskogee in one week will ever be a common occurrence.  Currently, we represent more than eighteen thousand veterans and surviving spouses with their VA benefits claims.  If very many of those claims were denied, we would be required to be at a hearing every day.  I’m just very proud of our volunteers who help to make sure that we do everything possible for the men and women who have served our county in the military.  The only thing that I don’t understand is why other organizations don’t use the VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire Forms the Department of Veterans Affairs developed for veterans to use to diagnose a disability.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the best VA changes implemented to increase the accuracy of VA rating decisions and to reduce the number of pending claims.  One of the things that I have noticed throughout my life is that people don’t want change.  They will say that’s the way we have always done things and they want to leave them alone.  To me change is sometimes difficult, but if there is a better way to help veterans why would we not do so.  Another thought for everyone is we should all be on the same team when it comes to helping veterans and their families.  Our goal has always been to help each person who visits us to receive all of the VA benefits for which they are eligible.

As I look back over the years since returning from Vietnam I can understand how the things that happened to us during military service will sometimes affect our thoughts and actions for the rest of our lives.  The men and women who are serving today are going to experience some of the same issues that veterans before them have had to deal with.  Personally, I believe that today’s veterans are better equipped to handle some of the traumatic events than some veterans who served in earlier times.  The military is also much more proactive in veteran’s mental health today than ever before.  For many years members of the military would be discharged early because of a mental health condition even though they may have suffered a traumatic event while in the military.  One of the most common stressors that we see is military members who were involved in direct combat, seeing others killed or injured from roadside bombs or other types of trauma. Another thing we see a lot of are the sexual assaults that have occurred to both male and female veterans.  Some of them have suffered for many years from PTSD and Depression from Military Sexual Trauma (MST).  We never ask a veteran what happened to them.  Our only question is, did a MST occur?  We then refer them to a mental health doctor for an evaluation.  If they are diagnosed with any type of mental health condition, we then ask for service connection of that disability.

Although we had a very busy week, our mail was very light.  We were notified 11 veterans were awarded benefits at the 100% rate.  These veterans will receive $412,003 on an annual basis.  Fifteen veterans were awarded benefits at the rate of 10-90%.  These veterans will receive $208,402 on an annual basis.

Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation has food sacks available to those in need.  An application for this type of assistance will be available on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  A DD-214 or military discharge will be necessary to apply.  Please contact 405-550-8806 Extension 103 to request a food sack.

If you need a ride to and from a VA Medical Appointment, please contact 405-550-8806 to reach Clayton at Extension 105 or Louie at Ext. 106.

We are available every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the 1268 North Interstate Drive Norman, OK 73072.  We open the doors by 5:30 a.m. and we begin working as soon as volunteers have their computers ready.  We stop taking clients as soon as we reach the quota for the day, and that time varies depending on the number of visitors and the number of available volunteers, which usually occurs around 8:00 a.m.  Contact us with any questions by email dale@dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org.  For telephone assistance, please call 405-550-8806 to listen to our options.  For help with Surviving Spouse Benefits, Shirley can also be reached at 405-361-9322, or stop by any Tuesday or Thursday morning. Visit our website at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org. Semper Fi!