Each week we recognize veterans who served in either World War II or the Korean War by giving a cap to them representing their war. One of them will also be selected as our Veteran of the week.  Mr. Earl Jordan who served in the United States Army during the Korean War is our Veteran of the week.  We appreciate the opportunity to serve the men and women who served our country in each of those Wars.  Thank You, Mr. Jordan, for your service to this great nation.

Our program of accepting the donation of cars, trucks and motorcycles that can be given to veterans or sold to raise funds to support our mission to support veterans and their families is working very well.  Last week a donor gave us a 1965 Mustang that is partially restored.  The paint and interior are in fair to good condition; it has a broken six-cylinder engine with an automatic transmission.  We are asking $4,000 or best offer for it.  Another program we have is our wish list that is posted in our building it covers the items that we use daily such as copy paper, stamps, coffee, toner, and countless other consumable items we use each week.  Please contact us and we will send you a copy of the Wish List items. Many items are less than $30. As a 501-C-3 your donations are what make it possible to help the thousands of veterans and surviving spouses we assist each week.  A special thank you to Caelyn McGoodwin with Girl Scout Troup 585.  She supplied our volunteers and veterans with Girl Scout Cookies.  Thank you Caelyn!  I also want to thank our dedicated volunteers who each week share their time and their talents with us.  These include our drivers who spent 65 hours traveling 1006 miles transporting 18 veterans.  Thank you all!

Today I have several announcements to share with our veterans and their families. Last week we received the donation of a ten-passenger handicapped accessible van that at one time was used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the organization that made it possible for us to have the ability to transport veterans who need this service.  Within a few weeks, we should have a certified driver and be able to transport wheelchair-bound veterans to our location or the VA hospital in Oklahoma, City.   We plan to have our Veterans Foundation Logos on the outside as soon as we find a sign company to wrap over the current VA ones.

On another note, we broke our record set recently on the number of veterans who received a VA service-connected rating of 100%.  I’m very proud to say that 19 veterans were awarded that rating.  When we moved to Norman, none of us dreamed that we would accomplish so much so quickly.  Currently, there are over eighteen thousand veterans and surviving spouses we have already assisted or are in the process of helping with their claims for VA benefits.  Yesterday while reviewing our database to see where everyone we assisted was from I found we had helped men and women from forty-one states and several different countries located in Europe, Japan, and the Philippines.  Most of our visitors are from Oklahoma and live mainly in our surrounding counties.  We have also had visitors from all seventy-seven counties in our state.  The most out of state veterans are from Texas with almost three hundred of them regularly making the trip.  Makes me wonder what the other states are doing for their veterans if so many are making a visit to see our volunteers in Oklahoma.  Not a day goes by that we don’t get calls from all over this United States asking if we have satellite offices in other states. As far as I know, we are the only organization that encourages veterans to obtain evidence such as a VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire or other medical evidence before filing a claim for service-connection of a disability.  When a veteran or surviving spouse makes their first visit to us we file a VA form 21-0966   Intent to File.  This form tells the VA that you plan to file a claim for benefits and gives a start date of the following month for benefits.  This form also gives the applicant one year from that date it is to file a Form 21-526EZ form and attach all of the evidence needed to support their claim for service-connection of a new disability or for an increase in a service-connected disability.  By using the VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire as evidence sometimes the VA will grant the benefits requested without sending the veteran to one of their medical providers for an evaluation.  The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to improve their rating decision process to make it faster and more accurate than ever before.   Another way they are speeding up the VA appeals process is the new system called Rapid Appeals Modernization Program or (RAMP).  This is only available to the veterans and surviving spouses invited by VA to participate.  I have received twenty or so of these Ramp invites on veterans we represent.  I have suggested all of them consider using this program as it should speed up their VA appeals.  When using the old system, it would take several years before the VA could make a decision on a veteran’s appeal.

We assisted more than 280 veterans and surviving spouses with their VA claims and questions last week.  The one thing that disappointed me was we were not able to accept everyone who made the trip to 1268 North Interstate Drive in Norman.  We open our doors by 5:30 AM or earlier and are usually full by 7 or 8 AM.  We were forced to turn away veterans who arrived after we had reached capacity. Maybe if we could add a few more volunteers, everyone could be seen who needs our help.  The men and women who have served in the military should receive all the VA benefits they are eligible for.

Our volunteers who specialize in assisting surviving spouses to receive VA benefits are some of the most knowledgeable we have ever had working with us.  They are changing the lives of surviving spouses each week as they help them to receive the VA benefits that they are eligible for.  Each week they are assisting an average of fifteen claimants with their applications for VA benefits.  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.

Last week there were 11 veterans awarded a one hundred percent rating for their service-connected disabilities. These men and women will receive a combined annual income of $417,528 per year.  They will also be eligible to receive the Oklahoma property tax exemption, sales tax exemption and other state and federal benefits.  Thirty-three veterans were awarded disability ratings from ten percent to ninety percent for their disabilities that were caused or aggravated by military service.  They will receive a combined annual compensation of $467,092 per year.  Two surviving spouses were awarded DIC, Pension or Aid and Attendance benefits based on their veteran’s military service.  They will receive a combined annual income of $16,117 per year.

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!