Our veteran of the week is Mr. Arthur Coats from Hinton, Oklahoma.  Mr. Coats served during the Korean War in the United States Army. We were very proud to recognize him for his service and to present a cap representing his war.  Thank You, Mr. Coats for your service to our country.

One of the reasons we volunteer each week is the fact that we can change the lives of veterans and their families. Last week while assisting a veteran, he related to me he had been homeless in Norman for five years. To survive, he slept in cars or wherever he could find a place to stay warm and dry.  The good news to this story is he was recently approved for service-connection at the 100 percent rate for an injury that occurred while in the military. He received back pay from the VA that totaled more than two hundred thousand dollars.  Needless to say, he does have a place to live along with food in the refrigerator.   Many good things are happening for the men and women who served in the military of this United States after visiting us at 1268 North Interstate Drive in Norman, Oklahoma.

We are very thankful for the support we receive that enables us to help the hundreds of veterans and surviving spouses who visit us each week.  As many of you know, we are a 501-C-3 Non-Profit where your donations are tax deductible.  We use this money to support veterans and their families who need a host of other items. Monthly, we spend more than $25,000 to help veterans and their families. We have several ways people can help us continue our programs.  One of the new ones is our Wish List we post in our building listing consumable items we use daily such as copy paper, coffee, toner for printers, cups and other things that are needed.  We do appreciate your help in providing services to veterans and their families.  Another way we raise funds is through our automobile donation program.  Many of the people we have helped will purchase a new truck or car after receiving VA benefits and will give their old one to our organization to be given to a veteran or spouse or sold to raise funds to support what we do. For a recently donated 1965 Mustang, we need a 200-cubic inch 6-cylinder engine.  This type of engine was used in other Ford cars during the sixties. Through these programs, you have helped countless veterans pay for the medical testing needed to support a veteran’s claim for service connection of a disability that occurred in the military.

For those of you who need handicap items, we have several hospital beds and electric wheelchairs available to veterans or their spouse’s that can be given away or loaned.

Last week there were a record-breaking 19 veterans, both men, and women, who received a one hundred percent rating for their service-connected disabilities.  They will receive an annual combined amount of $729,444 per year.   They will also receive the Oklahoma State Tax benefits package available for veterans who were awarded a service-connected disability rating at the one hundred percent rate.  This Oklahoma benefit includes property tax exemption on their primary residence and tax exemption on the first twenty-five thousand dollars of purchases.  There are other state benefits available to veterans rated fifty percent or higher.

There was also a record-breaking 35 veterans who received VA rating decisions from ten percent to ninety percent for their service-connected disabilities.  These men and women will receive a combined annual payment of $526,699 per year.  Two surviving spouses were approved for DIC, Pension or Aid and Attendance benefits based on their spouse’s military service.  Those approved for DIC are eligible for the Champ-VA medical insurance if they are not receiving Tri-Care.   Surviving spouses approved for DIC benefits are also eligible to receive one auto tag at the reduced rate of eight dollars or so.

Some of the surviving spouses who visit us for assistance for VA benefits have never thought they might be eligible to receive anything.  Many of them are not aware of VA Pension or Aid and Attendance.  I always encourage all veterans and surviving spouses of veterans to visit us for information about possible benefits.  There is no charge for our services.  We volunteer because we understand that if we don’t help each other, no one is going to.

We use a triage system to interview each veteran or surviving spouse to determine their needs.  This enables us to connect them with a volunteer who specializes in their needs.  This system has improved the quality and quantity of the veterans’ claims for service connection we process.  As an example, we assisted more than two hundred and seventy veterans and surviving spouses last Tuesday and Thursday.  When I finished reviewing them, there were only three that required any changes or additions. I’m very proud of what our volunteers have accomplished in Norman, Oklahoma.  I wonder why our system could not be replicated in other states.   As an example, last week we had visitors from several Texas cities who needed help with their VA claims.  They were from Houston, San Antonio, Lubbock, Dallas and Fort Worth.  There were also veterans from Missouri and several other states who traveled to our location.  We are happy to welcome out of state visitors and hope you tell your family and friends to come see us.

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!