Tommy Blankenship, Korean War Veteran
Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation
Our Veteran of the week Mr. Tommy Blankenship served in the United States Navy during the Korean War. We presented a cap representing his war and recognized him for his military service in front of several hundred fellow veterans. Thank You for your service, Mr. Blankenship.
Last week we served 258 veterans and surviving spouses with their claims and questions on VA benefits. The cold, wet weather we had on Tuesday morning kept a lot of people at home as there were only 101 brave souls who visited us that day. One of the things that I don’t understand is why other organizations have not followed our lead using evidenced-based claims when filing for VA benefits. It should be apparent to anyone that if a veteran supplies evidence of a diagnosed disability and evaluation of the severity of that condition their chances of receiving service-connection of that disability will be greatly improved. In the old days, veterans service officers would file claims for service-connection of disability without any type of evidence to support the veteran’s request. One person told me that it was like throwing **** at the barn door to see what stuck. Needless to say, many organizations are continuing to file claims for veteran’s benefits using that philosophy. That is one of the main reasons that we are seeing people travel thousands of miles for help with their applications for VA benefits. Currently, we are assisting veterans from as far away as Alaska and Florida.
As a VA Accredited Claims Agent, I receive a copy of all correspondence that VA sends to the veterans and surviving spouses I represent. Each week I review each one of them to see what VA decisions were made and why they were approved or denied. We then use that information in our training program to improve our processes and procedures. I’m very happy to report that when it comes to training our volunteers are more than willing to continue their education enabling them to be more proficient at their jobs. We are in the process of training volunteers in the Tulsa area who want to join our team with a satellite office in that part of our state. Several of our volunteers are visiting the Lawton Vet Center one day a month to help those veterans who are not able to make the drive to Norman Oklahoma. Currently, they are assisting from fifteen to twenty-five veterans each time they go there.
Many changes are going on at the Department of Veterans Affairs that will affect veterans. One of which is the VA is matching Social Security records with VA records. This new program resulted in over 600 of our veterans who are receiving unemployability to receive a VA form 21-4140 employment questionnaire. This form must be filled out and returned, or the veteran unemployability may be discontinued. For those folks receiving the explanation letter, no action is necessary. However, when receiving VA letters directing action on the part of the claimant, we always recommend bringing the letter in for us to review.
I believe one of the most critical services we offer each Tuesday and Thursday morning is the opportunity to talk with some of the counselors from the Vet Centers. They provide the opportunity to speak one on one about any difficulties that veterans may be having after returning to civilian life. I personally used their services in the late eighties and early nineties to help to understand what happened to us in Vietnam and changed so many of us. That understanding is what guided me to do what I do today for other veterans and their families. I do recommend that others use the programs that they have that may change their lives for the better.
The VA decisions received this week included those for twenty veterans awarded benefits at the 100% rate. They will receive $79,419 annually. Thirty-six veterans were awarded benefits at the 10-90% rate. Last week there were 39 in that category, so we are excited about this jump. This new group will receive $560,270 a year. A surviving spouse was awarded benefits and will receive $15,830 per year.
Please remember we are a 501 (c) (3) non-profit so your donations should be tax deductible. We are grateful for your monetary donations that help us provide medical testing for those folks who can’t afford that cost. The cost of a $100 hearing test is often a barrier to obtaining the evidence veterans need to support a claim. We also accept the donation of running autos that can be given to a needy veteran or sold to help fund some of a veteran’s medical expenses. We provide our services at no charge to all veterans and surviving spouses of veterans. We spend approximately $25,000 each month to support the veterans and surviving spouses we serve. We are not funded by any federal, state or local entity. Everything we receive is from the men and women we serve or from any local grants that are approved. We appreciate each one of you who are helping us to help our veterans and their families. Without your support, we would not be able to provide services such as transportation to and from VA appointments for veterans and to our location. Currently, our drivers are traveling over 1000 miles each week to provide this service.
We are available every Tuesday and Thursday mornings 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. We stop taking clients at 8:00 a.m. and urge you to arrive as early as possible.
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.
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