Each week we select a veteran who served in the military during WW II or the Korean War to recognize as our veteran of the week.  Many of those who are chosen have told us that we are the first to have ever said “Thank You for your service” and “Welcome home.”  All of us at our Veterans Foundation appreciate the sacrifices all veterans and their families have made to this United States of America.  We are very proud to have Mr. Patrick Fitter of Oklahoma City as our veteran of the week.  He served in the United States Army during the Korean War.  We presented him a cap representing his service during that war.  When we introduced him to our volunteers and the one hundred plus veterans in attendance he received a round of applause along with many Thanks from all of us.

As you know, we have a ship bell we ring one time for each veteran who receives a one hundred percent rating each week.  There were 21 awarded that disability rating last week.  I don’t know if we will ever beat the record of sixty-one who received the 100% rating for their service-connected disabilities set the week before.  The 21 veterans who received that rating this week will receive a combined annual combined rating of $831,633 per year.   I’m very proud of our volunteers who made it possible to help this group of veterans receives the VA benefits to which they were entitled.  Thirty-five veterans both male and female who received VA rating decisions that ranged from 10% to 90% for their service-connected disabilities.  They will receive a combined annual income of $501.942 for Aid and Attendance benefits.  They will also receive a yearly combined amount of $33,833 per year.  One of the things that separate our organization from many others is that we receive a copy of all the rating decisions for the men and women we represent.  This enables us to know who is approved or denied VA benefits.  We then send out a letter to each person detailing what they need to do next.  Before I became a VA Accredited Claims Agent, I would not know whether the veteran or surviving spouse’s claim was approved.  This also allows me to investigate the veterans VA claim folder to review their service medical records and to see what the evaluations the VA contractors like LHI, QTC or other evaluators have posted. This tool has given us a heads up on all the veterans claims our Foundation represents.We assisted 140 veterans on Tuesday and 152 on Thursday last week. I don’t know how big this organization is going to grow but growing it is. Most of the people we help are those from in Oklahoma.  There is not a day that goes by that we don’t receive calls from folks in other states wanting to know if we have places like ours in their state.  I always just invite them to plan a visit to Norman Oklahoma as our services are provided at no charge to everyone.  Last week I received a VA rating decision on one of my veterans who lives in Montana, the week before that we had veterans from Minnesota who had driven down for help with their application for VA benefits.

As you know, we are a Non-Profit organization and will not charge anyone for anything. The coffee and doughnuts are also free.  We provide free transportation to your VA appointments or to get the medical testing needed to establish your benefit claim.  Last week, our drivers spent more than 64 hours transporting 16 veterans more 1,263 miles.

Each month the cost is approximately thirty thousand dollars to provide services to the veterans and surviving spouses who come to us for assistance.  These services range from medical testing, food sacks, rents, utilities, gas cards and transportation for veterans to and from their VA medical appointments.  We do not receive any government funding, state or federal.   Every dollar we spend on this group of men and women is either donated to us by the men and women we serve or by grants we receive from businesses in our community.  We try very hard to make a difference in the lives of every person who comes through our doors on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

One of the other ways we raise funds to provide these services is through your donation of cars, trucks, boats, tractors or any like type items that can be given to veterans or sold to raise funds.  We also accept donations of handicap equipment that can be given to other veterans or their families.  We currently have several electric wheelchairs, scooters, bathroom items, patient lifts, hospital beds and an aluminum wheelchair ramp are available at no charge to veterans and their families. These can be either given or loaned to veterans on an as-needed basis.  Personally, I like to recycle these items from one veteran to another.

Our volunteers who assist the surviving spouses of veterans are some of the most knowledgeable and caring that can be found anywhere.  Each week they help many of them receive the VA benefits for which they are eligible based on their spouse’s military service.  I know it is very difficult for each of our volunteers to hear the stories of despair from any veteran or family member.   It’s especially hard when they hear the stories of surviving spouses.  Not only have they lost their life’s partner many of them are going to face some very severe financial problems when their income is reduced.  One of the things I have been pushing is for veterans to try to seek approval of a service-connected disability.  If they are service-connected for a disability, their spouse and dependents could be eligible for VA benefits when the veteran dies.  There are several ways surviving spouses may be eligible for DIC benefits.  The most common are the following:  a veteran’s service-connected disability is listed as a contributing condition on their Death Certificate, the veterans cause of death is a presumptive condition to military service or the veteran received a 100% service-connected disability rating for ten years.  The pension benefit for surviving spouses and veterans is based on when the veteran served in the military (at least one-day active duty during wartime) and their income per year.

For those who have questions about VA benefits, please visit us any Tuesday or Thursday morning starting at 0500.  We are located in the Robinson Crossing Shopping Center at 1268 North Interstate Drive in Norman Oklahoma.   Those of you who are Southbound on I-35 take the 110 A exit we are located west of the Braums and north of Dominos.  If you are traveling North on I-35 take the 110 exit and circle back over the Interstate, then turn right on Interstate Drive.

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 mornings 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!