During our celebration of Independence Day on July 4th, 2018, my thoughts were on the military service many of us shared, and the opportunities offered to us because of that experience.  Some of us were not what you would call being ready for the real world when we began our lives as members of the United States Military.   Growing up on small farms in Oklahoma many were like me- sheltered from many of the pitfalls experienced by those who lived in the city.   When I joined the Marines fresh out of high school, we thought that we had all the answers and that life would be an adventure.  Needless to say, I faced a reality check beginning the first day of my enlistment in the Marines.  One of the reasons most of our volunteers are helping is based on the commitment many of us learn in the military.  I can honestly say that without the lessons in life I learned in the Marines, I doubt if I would have lived as long as I have.   Bar none, the best decision I ever made in my life was to marry Barbara.  She and I will celebrate our 50th year anniversary this July 12.  Happy Anniversary and thank you for supporting what I do to help others and the long hours away from home.

Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation Veteran of the Week, Mr. Bill Clark served in World War II as a member of the United States Army and Guard. He currently resides in Oklahoma City.  Thank you for your service, Mr. Clark.  We appreciate you!

Most of the veterans and surviving spouses we assist are from all 77 counties in Oklahoma.  Our volunteers have assisted veterans and surviving spouses from 45 states.  Makes me wonder why they have to travel to Oklahoma for assistance with their VA applications for benefits.  Maybe it’s our volunteers who make the difference in the outcome of their VA claims.  Last week we assisted a 103-year-old veteran from Clinton, Oklahoma.  Each week our volunteers donate hundreds of hours helping veterans.  Just two of our drivers spent 64 hours transporting 18 folks more than 1,000 miles in our vehicles.  When you run across any of our volunteers, you might thank them for their help.  I try to do so every chance I get, but it would mean a lot for them to hear it from you too.There were 243 veterans and surviving spouses assisted with their VA claims and questions last week.   As an Accredited VA Agent, I receive the VA notifications of awards.  In the mailbag this week, there were 13 who received a 100% rating for their service-connected disabilities.  Those veterans will receive a combined annual income of $510,179 per year.  They will also receive a property tax exemption on their primary residence in Oklahoma and an exemption from state sales tax.  Dependents of veterans not retired from the military will also be eligible for the Champ/VA medical insurance.   There are other Oklahoma state benefits available for some service-connected disabled veterans depending on their VA rating percentage.  Thirty-two veterans received disability ratings from 10% to 90% for their service-connected disabilities.  These veterans, both men, and women will receive a combined annual income of $473,972 per year.  A surviving spouse was approved for DIC, and another veteran was approved for Pension. They will receive an annual combined amount of $26,797 per year.  Most of the veterans and surviving spouses we see will receive some type of VA benefit.  During the first six months of 2018, we have assisted more than 400 veterans to receive a one hundred percent rating for their service-connected disabilities.   There have been thousands of veterans who were helped to receive rating decisions from 10% to 90% for their service-connected disabilities. If you find an all-volunteer organization that is doing more for the men and women who served in our military, please give them a big Thank You.

One thing that would be very good for our many out of town visitors would have our local hotels or motels offer a discount to veterans who are visiting us.  Many of these folks will be returning for several visits. Each week we serve an average of three hundred veterans and surviving spouses.  Many of them are going to require a room for several days or more.  They will also be visiting our local eating establishments and entertainment facilities.   We need some type of welcome packet listing of places to stay, eat or sightseeing destinations. I would like to add that information to our website and have a hand out to make it easier for our out of town visitors. If you have hotel contacts and would like to help us do this, we would appreciate it. We currently serve close to fifteen thousand people at our Norman location, and that number could double if every veteran brought their spouse with them, as many of them do so now.

As most all of you know, we are a 501 (c) (3)   Non-profit organization that does not receive any state or federal funds. All monies used in our operation come from donations from the men and women veterans we serve or from local grants we receive.  Currently, we are spending close to $30,000 each month in direct aid to the men and women who have served in the military of this great nation.  Another way you can support us is the donation of cars, trucks, motorcycles and other items that can be given to veterans or sold to raise funds to support our mission.  Any Donations to our organization should be tax deductible when tax time rolls around each year.  Some of the things we provide to veterans and surviving spouses in need include food items, medical testing, rents, auto repair, handicap items, wheelchairs, walkers, etc.  Veterans tell us, each day that the VA benefits we helped them to obtain have changed their lives.  When a veteran or surviving spouse is living on under a thousand dollars a month, and we can assist them to receive VA benefits many of them will have their income doubled.  Maybe that is the reason we reach the maximum number of veterans, and surviving spouses we can accommodate by 7 am each Tuesday and Thursday morning at 1268 North Interstate Drive in Norman, Oklahoma.  For those of you who would like to be a part of what we do, please see Lora Malone any Tuesday or Thursday morning for a volunteer application.  We require a background check on everyone who volunteers with our organization.

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 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!