Rhonda Reynolds and Lora Malone representing Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation in Washington D.C.
Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation
Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation’s Board of Directors formed a task force to visit the offices of various Congressional members to discuss issues affecting veterans and the work our 60+ volunteers are doing to address those issues. August 8th, our task force began a two-day assignment in Washington, D.C. In the group were Executive Director, Lora Malone, Board Members, Dr. Les Nunn, and Col. Chuck DeBellevue, and Rhonda Reynolds. While there, they spent time in the offices of Senator Jim Inhofe, Congressman Tom Cole, Congresswoman Kendra Horn, Congressman Frank Lucas, and Congressman Markwayne Mullin. During each session they shared information about our work here in Norman, all 77 counties in Oklahoma, and in the 48 other states and five foreign countries where the Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation serves clients. The task force engaged in very productive conferences that will lead to further discussions and developments.
Our task force also had two meetings at the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). While at the BVA, they met with Chairman Cheryl Mason and toured the BVA hearing facilities. BVA hearings may be conducted via video conference where the Administrative Law Judge presides from Washington, D.C. and our clients appear with myself and Rhonda Reynolds in Oklahoma City. Our Foundation has participated in more than 120 BVA hearings in the last 15 months resulting in favorable rulings.
We are looking forward to an upcoming Oklahoma visit by BVA staff members in September 2019. We have also begun making plans for the training session the BVA will conduct during a second Oklahoma visit.
On Friday morning, while others were still on their commute to work, our group was able to squeeze in a tour of the Pentagon. Col. DeBellevue, who had a tour at the Pentagon, provided great insight about the critical work carried on at the Pentagon. He also shared information about the background of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others whose portraits adorn the Pentagon halls. The Pentagon visit was arranged by one of the veterans we have helped, Steven Pyrzynski of Michigan, Steve told us it was the least he could do as our group does so much for so many. Thank you, Steve!
Our organization continues to grow in the number of veterans and surviving spouses assisted each week with their VA claims and questions. One of the ways we are trying to increase the number of people we see each week is through our quality control effort, ensuring each veteran’s claim is completed the first time correctly. Just one missed signature or date can require a veteran to return a second time. We are doing everything possible to help the men and women who have served in our military to receive all the VA benefits in which they are eligible. Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, there are more veterans and surviving spouses lining up than we can accommodate. I don’t know what time they start arriving the night before or early in the morning, but what I do know is that we can only accept one hundred fifty of them each morning. We must ask those who arrive after we reach our maximum limit to return the following Tuesday or Thursday morning. When I get there before four in the morning, the line is already a block long and growing. If we were charging for our services, we could all be buying that new truck like so many of our veterans after approved for VA benefits.
We also work to improve our services by continual training for our volunteers in the many ways that VA is improving their forms and processes. All of us can see a difference in the time the VA takes to make a decision for a veteran or surviving spouse applications for benefits. We have been seeing decisions made in thirty days or less on some claims filed using the Fully Developed Claims forms. Currently, the VA Appeals process is also undergoing some significant changes. One of the most helpful for the veterans we represent is the ability to hold the BVA Hearings at our OKC Vet Center using their video hearing equipment. This has helped the veterans and our Accredited Agents to assist over one hundred veterans with their appeals since January 2019. This process also allows the BVA to process more hearings in one day, than when we made the two-plus hour each way to the VA Regional Office in Muskogee, Oklahoma. We believe the VA is on the right track to clear the hundreds of thousands of claims backlogged in their system. Attending the BVA appeal hearings to represent our clients is another one of the free services we provide.
Last week 34 veterans received 100% rating decisions for their service-connected disabilities and will receive a combined amount of $1,268,158 a year. Seventy-three veterans received disability ratings ranging from 10-90% for a combined annual amount of $985,476.
Our organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that relies on donations to be able to provide services to the thousands of veterans and their families who need assistance. We accept the donation of cars, trucks, motorcycles, or other types of items that can be given to veterans or sold to raise funds to provide for veteran’s needs. Please remember that your donations should be tax-deductible on your income taxes. Thank You for supporting our Foundation. You can also donate anytime online at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org or by mail at PO Box 592 Washington, OK 73093.
We have power wheelchairs and scooters that have been donated. If you know a veteran who needs one, please contact us.
Counselors from the Vet Centers are here each session, and a Legal Aid representative is here on Thursdays. We have food baskets available for those who qualify. We look forward to your visit and thank you for trusting us to help you with your VA matters.
We are available every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 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. Our line starts as early as 4 a.m.
Visit our website at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org for more information. There you will find a section on Frequently Asked Questions. You may also contact us at 405-550-8806 for information or to schedule transportation.
As always, I want to say Thank You to all veterans and their families for their service to the United States of America.
Dale K. Graham, VA Accredited Claims Agent
Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation