We would like you to meet C-4.  She is a service dog for veteran Doug DeRyckere who volunteers at Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation twice a week.  C-4 comes to work with Doug on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Doug is a United States Army veteran and served 31 years for our country. He suffers from PTSD and says “C-4 has changed my life.  She senses when I get upset and reminds me to remain calm.  I used to be afraid to go to sleep due to the nightmares.  She gives me comfort and my nightmares have gone away. “ C-4 (Sweet Caroline) was named for a Navy Seal Charles H. Keating IV, known as C-4 or Charlie who died in battle on May 3, 2016.  Keating executed his final assignment by safely evacuating the entire advise-and-assist team he was sent to rescue. As they departed the battle, which at that point had lasted for approximately two hours, both medical evacuation helicopters were damaged by small-arms fire.  After his death, Keating’s mother sponsored a service dog to help a disabled veteran through the K-9’s for Warriors Program based in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.  DeRyckere filled out the lengthy 25-page application and was approved by the organization.  He and C-4 have been together since November 2017.   K-9 for Warriors typically takes rescue dogs into their program.  It takes 2-6 months to train each dog.  The dogs are matched with veterans, and the wait is usually 9-10 months.  When a military hero gets paired with a service dog, they must complete a 3-week training session together in Ponte Vedra before going home.  The cost to train a service dog is $15,000 to $20,000.  Doug and C-4 spend 24 hours a day together, and she can legally accompany him anywhere he can go.  For more information about K-9’s for Warriors visit https://www.k9sforwarriors.org/

During the last couple of weeks, we had visits from the gubernatorial candidates or their representatives. We appreciate them taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with our volunteers to find out more about what we do.  Our guests also spent some time talking to veterans and their families.

A recent addition to our services is the attendance of counselors from the Oklahoma City and Lawton Veterans Center.  These useful services will be available each Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Our volunteers continue to make a difference in the lives of more than 300 veterans and surviving spouses each week at our Foundation.  Last week there were 22 veterans both men and women who received disability ratings of 100% for their service-connected disabilities.  If you were one of them I would like to say that it is an honor and privilege to have helped you receive your VA benefits.  These veterans will receive an annual combined amount of $792,349 per year.  They will also be eligible for the Oklahoma State Tax benefits which include property tax exemption on a primary residence, reduced auto tags, as well as free hunting and fishing license.  Their spouses and dependents may also be eligible for the free Champ-VA medical Insurance.  Education benefits are also available for the spouse and dependents of veterans rated 100%. Twenty-seven veterans were awarded disability ratings from 10% to 90% for their service-connected disabilities.  This group will receive a combined annual amount of $418,856 per year.  We had four surviving spouses awarded DIC, Pension or Aid and Attendance based on their spouse’s military service. These surviving spouses will receive an annual combined amount of $63,137 per year.  Our volunteers are indeed having a positive impact on the lives of thousands of veterans and surviving spouses.

Each week many veterans visit us that are unable to pay for the medical exams needed to support their claim for service-connection of a disability that occurred or was aggravated by military service.  We may provide the funds to pay for these based on their current financial situation.  On an average week, we will spend $5,000 helping veterans pay for their evaluations.  Over the years I have found that it is much easier to help a veteran receive VA benefits if evidence is provided in support of their claim.  Many places veterans go to for assistance with filing for VA benefits work with a person who only fills out a Form 21-526ez (the form used to apply for that benefit).  I have found the VA will deny most of the claims filed without evidence.  It’s much easier to do it right the first time than to receive a denial from VA and then have to start over.  If our way did not work, we would not be seeing more than 300 hundred veterans and surviving spouse each week who visit us for help with their VA claims and questions.

One of the things that we continue to see is the young men and women who were visiting us because of a sexual assault that occurred in the military.  These are sometimes called Military Sexual Trauma or (MST).  I would have never dreamed that the occurrence of these types of assaults happened as frequently as we have observed.   When we interview a person during our triage process about any injuries that occurred while serving in the military we always ask if they were assaulted. If they say yes, then I tell them that we have a doctor who we would like to send them to for an evaluation of PTSD or Depression caused by the incident.  If the veteran is a female, we have a female volunteer who specializes in filling out the VA form 21-0781a.  In the case of a male veteran, we have a male volunteer fill out the veteran’s forms. For those veterans who are suffering from PTSD that was caused by combat stressor or other types of stressors, we have a specialist who will assist them in putting their experiences down on paper. As all of you know, it’s very hard to talk about some of the things that happened to us while we were serving in the military.

One of the ways you can help us to raise the funds we use to provide services to veterans and their families is by setting up an automatic monthly donation to our organization.  We also accept the donations of cars, trucks, motorcycles and other items that can be given to veterans or sold to raise operating funds used to help veterans.  We also have several power wheelchairs that are available at no charge to veterans or their families.  Food sacks are available for those veterans and spouses who are in need.

One of the things that I feel should be discussed more is the needs of surviving spouses of veterans.  There are countless widows of veterans who could probably be eligible to receive some type of VA benefit if they only knew it was available.  I’m asking our readers to start asking the surviving spouses who they know if their spouse was a veteran.  For those that were please ask them to visit us about possible VA benefits based on their husband’s military service.  As most of the ladies will outlive one or more spouses, they may be able to receive VA benefits off of any of their spouses that were veterans.  Please remember if the veterans service-connected disability is listed on their Death Certificate as the primary or contributing cause of death the spouse may be eligible for 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 morning 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 7:00 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 general information dial extension 101, to schedule transportation dial extension 105 or 106.  For help with Surviving Spouse Benefits, dial extension 104, or stop by any Tuesday or Thursday morning. Visit our website at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org. Semper Fi!