Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation recognizes Veteran of the week, Mr. Harold McClellan who was a member of the United States Army serving in the Korean War.  Mr. McClellan makes his home in Oklahoma City. We are very proud to recognize him for his military service with an introduction and presentation of a military style cap representing his war.  Thank You, Mr. McClellan, for your service.

For those of you who have not stopped in lately, we have several new ways to help us help veterans and surviving spouses who are in need of assistance.  We now have what is called a Dip Jar.  It is a device that will withdraw twenty dollars from a debit or credit card and deposit into our Foundation account.   We also have a Wish List of consumable items we use each day such as paper, coffee supplies, paper towels, bottled water and other items.  We would like to be able to help more veterans and surviving spouses who are having financial difficulties.  Our food sack program is making a difference in the lives of the people we serve who do not have enough to eat.  Our most costly program is helping veterans to pay for medical exams that are needed to help veterans to service-connect their disability.Our fundraising program to accept the donations of Cars, Trucks, Motorcycles and Recreational vehicles continues to be a great way for us to raise funds by selling them or giving them to veterans in need.  I received a call a few days ago from a veteran we are assisting who wanted to donate an older Motorhome.  Of course, I said bring it on down we will either give it to someone for a place to live or sell it to raise operating funds.   Each month we are spending more than thirty thousand dollars providing services to the veterans and surviving spouses who are in need.  As a 501 C -3 non-profit your donations are tax deductible.  The person donating an item establishes the value for deduction from their taxes.

For those of you who need a ride to your VA medical appointments or our location, in Norman Clayton Lee and Louie Metseff are available by calling 405-550-8806 and option 105 or 106.  For transportation for those in a wheelchair needing transportation, please call the same number and select option 101 to reach Lora.

Recently I wrote about the donation we received of one of the Department of Veterans Affairs Handicapped accessible vans.  Last week Signarama of Edmond added our organization’s name and logos at a discounted price. We have already used it to transport several wheelchair bound veterans to their appointments.  We will keep it on display at our location in Norman at 1268 North Interstate Drive.  Please call us if you need this service. The van is capable of transporting three or four wheelchair veterans or thirteen. We have been praying for a way to transport veterans with mobility issues to their VA appointments.  As always all of the services we provide are free. We would also like to say, thank You again to the anonymous donors who made this gift possible.

As volunteers, we believe the men and women who have served in the military of this United States should receive the VA benefits for which they or their families are eligible. Many of those who have returned home after their military service have both physical and mental scars.  We use the VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire filled out by a medical provider to provide evidence and a diagnosis of the veteran’s disability.  These forms were developed by the VA to speed up and improve the accuracy of VA rating decisions.  As I am the Accredited VA Representative, I receive a copy of all these rating decisions.  Since we began using this program initiated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the approval rate for the veteran’s claims we assist with has increased dramatically.    As all of us know, the VA has gone through some very trying years.

Recently one of the veterans we assisted several years ago in receiving a 100% rating for hearing loss visited with us at our new location.  His wife of fifty years told me that he was suffering depression because of his hearing loss.  The couple returned a month later with a diagnosis of depressive disorder caused by his inability to communicate due to his profound hearing loss effectively.  We filed a 21-526EZ requesting service-connection for depressive disorder secondary to his service-connected hearing loss.  The VA then sent him to their phycologist for an opinion of his condition and granted service-connection of depressive disorder at the one hundred percent rate secondary to his hearing loss.  This new rating enabled him to receive what VA terms as Housebound which pays an extra five hundred dollars or so each month.  The term Housebound is used when a veteran has one disability rated at 100% or others based on common etiology of that disability.

As many of you have read in this column before, many diseases may be presumptive to a veteran’s military service.  VA benefits could be payable to the veteran or their dependents depending on where or when they served.  Most veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange are aware of the presumptive service-connected diseases caused by that chemical.  Three diseases are part of what is called the Nehmer ruling that are also presumptive.  That is a court ruling that list Parkinson’s disease, Hairy Cell Leukemia and Ischemic Heart Disease allowing a veteran or their survivors to receive an early start date for service connection of these disabilities.  We have had veterans exposed to Agent Orange but were denied service-connection for one of the three listed diseases who later received hundreds of thousands of dollars based on the Nehmer ruling.  This also applies to surviving spouses whose veteran was exposed to that chemical and was diagnosed with one of the three diseases.

For your information, if a veteran rated 100% has a dependent who becomes totally disabled before age 18 they may be eligible to receive VA benefits under the Helpless Child program.  For questions about these benefits visit us any Tuesday or Thursday morning or call VA at 1-800-827 1000 for more information.

When a veteran’s or surviving spouse’s application for VA benefits is denied several times a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) may be filed by the veteran or an accredited representative.  We file those only as a last resort as it may take many years for the Board of Veterans Affairs to make a ruling.  Our philosophy has always been to provide the evidence required for their claims to be approved before filing a NOD.  During the last few weeks we have traveled to Muskogee four times to represent our clients at their Video hearing before a Judge in Washington DC.   A decision will be made in the near future on the surviving spouses and veterans we represented.

Last week we received the following rating decisions from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Seven veterans were awarded a 100% rating for their service-connected disabilities.  These men and women will receive a combined annual amount of $269,536 per year.  There were eleven veterans who received a VA Disability rating from 10% to 90%.  These men and women will receive an annual combined amount of $86,587 per year.  We had four who were approved for DIC benefits, Pension Benefits or Aid and Attendance benefits.

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!