Each week we recognize veterans who served during World War II and the Korean War with an introduction and a cap representing their military service in those wars.  Our veteran of the week is Mr. Richard Kerner of Norman, Oklahoma who served our nation in the United States Airforce during the Korean War.  We know that the men and women who served in both wars made many sacrifices during their military service.  All of us are very proud of the men and women who have served in the military.

We were very busy last Tuesday and Thursday morning helping more than 277 veterans and surviving spouses with their VA claims and questions.   Since Veterans Foundation moved into 1268 North Interstate Drive in Norman, Oklahoma, there has been an increase in the number of veterans and spouses who need our assistance.  One of the main reasons for the increase is our reputation for being able to help them to receive the VA benefits for which they are eligible.  Some organizations who help veterans will simply file a 21-526ez Fully Developed Claim Form and include a list of disabilities. That method may work for some disabilities, but others will get denied.  Our way of helping veterans to receive VA benefits is different because we start by sending in a VA Form 21-0966 Intent to File for VA benefits.  Using that form establishes a start date for VA benefits. The veteran or surviving spouse then has up to one year to obtain evidence about their claim. Usually, the next form is a Form 21-526EZ Application for Benefits, and we attach evidence such as a VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire, medical evidence or statements from family members, or people who served with the Veteran. By using our method to file claims for benefits, the VA will sometimes grant our request with no other evaluations by the VA.  Most of the applications for benefits we file will be approved before there is any reason to file a Notice of Disagreement to start the VA appeals process.

Our program of accepting the donation of cars, trucks, motorcycles, handicap items, and other items that can be given to veterans or sold to raise funds to provide services continues to be very popular with veterans and their families in our community.  Those types or any other Donations are Tax Deductible as we are a 501-C-3 Non-Profit.  When you walk into our facility, all the people you see working with veterans and surviving spouses are volunteers including myself.  We are there each Tuesday and Thursday because we know that if we do not help each other, it’s doubtful that anyone else will.  Our goal is to assist every veteran and spouse of a veteran to receive all the VA benefits for which they are eligible.

Tax help for veterans is available.  If their income is less than $54,000, please contact VITA.  There are two VITA sites in Norman, one at OU and one at the Community Services Building.  AARP also as a program you can check out.  Google VITA and use its locator tool by using your zip code to find a location near you.

We have started a new program to help with the cost of supplies we frequently use each week providing our services to the many veterans and surviving spouses. We created a list of consumable items if you would like to help us.  We will also post this list on our Website.  Some of the things we use a lot of includes: copy paper, toners for copy machines, several coffee supply items, and 8-ounce foam cups.  For a complete list please stop by and pick one up or give us a call at 550-8806, extension 103 and we’ll mail you a list.   Thank you in advance for your help in allowing us to provide for our veterans and their families.

Each week we provide financial assistance to veterans who need help with the cost to complete a Veteran’s medical diagnosis such as a VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire or another type of evidence, such as a hearing test as evidence for a veteran’s request for service connection of hearing loss and tinnitus.  We also provide transportation at no charge to veterans to the OKC VA Hospital, to our location in Norman, and to medical providers to obtain evidence in support of their VA claims.  Our Drivers Clayton Lee and Louie Metseff are driving more than one thousand miles each week providing this service to the veterans who need this service.  Another program we offer is our Food Sack program.  We give these to veterans and their families who are in need.  Most of us never wonder where our next meal is coming from, but some of those we serve don’t know from one day to the next where they will eat or if there will there be anything. We also direct these folks to the various other resources to help them with food, shelter, and other necessities.

Last week six very happy veterans received a VA disability rating of 100%.  These veterans, both men, and women will receive a combined annual income of $238,968 per year.  They will also be eligible to receive the Oklahoma State Property Tax exemption on their primary residence, sales tax exemption, free hunting and fishing licenses, and reduced auto tags on two vehicles.   Those dependents that are not eligible for Tri-Care may be eligible to receive Champ-VA medical Insurance at no charge. Fifteen veterans received disability ratings from ten to ninety percent.  Those men and women veterans will receive a combined annual income of $212,418 per year.  Two surviving spouses were approved based on their veteran’s military service.  They will receive a combined annual income of $37,849per year, plus those approved for DIC will be eligible for the Champ-VA medical insurance.

The only advice I have for veterans is to stop by for a visit any Tuesday or Thursday morning.  You may be eligible for an increase on your VA benefits, or if you have not filed, there may be benefits for you and possibly for your spouse when you are deceased.  It is much easier to help a veteran to receive a service-connected disability than it is to help a widow whose husband would not file for VA benefits.  Did you know that if a veteran’s service-connected disability is listed as a contributing factor on his death certificate, the spouse may be eligible to receive the VA DIC benefit which is from twelve hundred fifty dollars to fifteen hundred dollars each month?  There are many surviving spouses of veterans for whom these DIC payments would change their lives.  I see some of them coming in who are living on from six hundred to a thousand dollars per month.  We can help some of them, but it would be a lot easier if their veteran was receiving VA benefits.  For information on Surviving spouse benefits, please visit us any Tuesday or Thursday morning or call 405-550-8806. Extension 104.

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 at 405-550-8806 or email dale@dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org.  Visit our website at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org. Semper Fi!