Our veteran of the week is a man that many of you have met when he handed you the sign-in sheet at our front desk, not only is he a veteran who served our country honorably in the military he is also a volunteer at our Veterans Foundation.  Congratulations to Mr. Riley Phillips our veteran of the week, Thank You, Riley, for your service to our country and to our veterans you now serve at our Foundation.

Our mission to assist veterans and their families continues to grow locally, statewide and to many other states and foreign countries where veterans make their homes.  We have been able to assist veterans from all 77 counties in Oklahoma along with most every state.  For us to be able to provide our services, we are dependent on the generosity of the people we have helped receive the VA benefits for which they are eligible.  We do not receive any federal or state assistance to help provide our services.  Many of the people who visit us are living at or below the poverty level.  Each week we will spend an average of $7500.00 providing services that range from medical testing, utility payments, food items, transporting veterans to their VA medical appointments, rents and a myriad of other expenses that everyone has.  One of the ways we are raising money to provide these services in with your donation of that old car, truck, boat or motorcycle.  These types of items are then either given to a veteran in need or sold to raise some of the money needed to provide our services.  Our organization is a 501-C-3 NON-PROFIT which means your donation may be Tax Deductible.

Our Executive Director Lora Malone is now accepting applications to become a volunteer to help us with veterans and their surviving spouses.  The men and women who are on our team know they are making a difference in the lives of those who have served in the United States Military.  As we continue to grow, there will be a need to add to our volunteer base.  Currently, we have more than 70 volunteers who help us in a variety of positions.  Personally, I would like for us to double that number with a plan to be open more days each week.  As we are mindful of the training that is required for a volunteer to become proficient in the VA claims process, we have implemented a bi-monthly training schedule geared to experienced and the inexperienced volunteer.  We currently have five people who are accredited with the VA.  As we move forward, we plan to increase that number.  I don’t know of another group who has helped so many veterans and surviving spouses receive VA assistance.  Our volunteers are what make us different than anyone else.

We had 265 veterans and surviving spouses who braved the cold last week for help with their VA claims and questions.  I would have never believed that our small group of volunteers could have ever foreseen the incredible need for the services we provide.  Many of those I talk to tell me the same story, they tried to obtain VA benefits at other locations before and were told they make too much money to qualify for VA benefits. Only pension benefits are tied to income and medical expenses and when they served in the military.  Often, folks are not told they might qualify for compensation from a disability that occurred in the military or one that is presumptive to military service.  Most of the veterans that I meet could be eligible for service-connection of a disability from an incident that occurred in the military.  That could be from a physical injury or a mental condition caused by a traumatic event that occurred in the military.  As our society finds out more about the sexual predators, who have taken advantage of vulnerable men and women in the civilian world it is time to also time to deal with those in the military.  For many years our volunteers have been helping men and women who were sexually assaulted in the military.  I’m very proud to say that we have helped many of them receive VA benefits for what happened to them while serving in the armed forces.  I’m writing this because many of the victims of sexual abuse in the military have never opened up to a mental health professional.  The men and women we have helped over the years have returned to say Thank You for changing their lives.  When someone comes in for help one of the things we ask is if they have ever been assaulted in the military.  If their answer is yes, they are then taken to volunteer of the same gender that has experience in those types of claims for assistance.  We will also ask them to make an appointment with a Board-Certified Psychiatrist for an evaluation of their condition.  If they are diagnosed with PTSD or Depression, we then help them to file for service-connection of their disability.  There are two kinds of PTSD that we deal with daily. One is from a traumatic event that could have occurred in–service, and another might be a sexual assault.

Our volunteers who assist surviving spouses with their applications for DIC or Pension benefits continue to see a steady stream of men and women who have questions about possible benefits or need help filing a VA claim.  We have several whose only job is to assist surviving spouses.  For questions, stop in Tuesday or Thursday morning or call Shirley at 405-550-8806, extension 104. We also have volunteers who serve as drivers.  Last week they spent 59 hours transporting 11 folks 965 miles.

Last week three veterans were received a 100% disability rating for their service-connected disabilities.  These men and women were both young and old.  They will receive a combined annual income of $112,758 per year.  We also received 17 decisions where veterans were awarded from 10% to 90% for their service-connected disabilities.  Those men and women will receive a combined annual income of $245,545 per year.

Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation has food boxes 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 Rhonda 405-550-8806 Extension 103 to request a food box.

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 at 1268 North Interstate Drive in Norman, Exit 110 off I-35 each Tuesday and Thursday morning at 5:30 am. Please arrive by 8 am.  We accept the first 130 veterans and spouses. The only reason we are here is to help all veterans and their families receive the VA benefits for which they are eligible. Contact us with any questions at 405-550-8806 Extension 101 or dale@dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org or Shirley Clark-Cowdin for spouse benefits at Extension 104.  Visit our website at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org. Semper Fi!