Desmon Johnson, Korean War Veteran
Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation
The cold, wet weather kept some of our veterans and surviving spouses at home last week. A total of 215 did make it to our foundation for help with their VA claims and questions. One Army veteran visited us from North Carolina for help with his application for benefits. Those who have visited us on cold days tell us how appreciative they are we move them inside just as soon as we are able. Thursday was no exception. It does my heart good when we see men and women so willing to work with us because they know how dedicated we are to helping them. The teamwork and attitude of “we’re all in this together” allows us to make a lot of difference in the lives of those we serve.
Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation Veteran of the Week, Desmon Johnson served in the Korean War as a member of the United States Army. He makes his home in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. We honored him last week at the foundation and thanked him for his service with a military hat representing the Korean War. Thank you, Mr. Johnson. We appreciate your service.
Last week as I was reviewing the decisions that I received from the Department of Veterans Affairs there were several decisions from the Board in Washington DC. One of those was on one of our Blue Water Sailors who was asking for service-connection of a disease caused by exposure to Agent Orange. As most of the men and women of the so-called Blue Water folks have been ineligible for the presumptive diseases, I was excited to open it. It stated that his case would be on hold until VA decided to appeal or to approve the lower court ruling. We will know in the near future if the Blue Water folks are going to be added to the presumptive list of Agent Orange diseases. There will be many surviving spouses of the Blue Water veterans who will be eligible for VA benefits if it is approved.
As a 501-3-C Non-Profit we are continuing to make a difference in the lives of veterans in every county in Oklahoma along with those from forty-eight other states. As we move forward, we are working on developing satellite offices in other parts of Oklahoma to go along with our folks who are working out of the Lawton Vet Center one day each month. To continue to grow, we will need knowledgeable, caring individuals who would like to join our team of volunteers. Many people asked us how we can provide the services we offer without charging for our services. It’s really very simple, most people will help when they know that their donations are making a difference. Anyone who has ever visited us on a Tuesday or Thursday morning has seen the difference that this organization makes in the lives of the men and women who served in the United States Military. Our drivers are averaging over one thousand miles each week transporting veterans to their VA appointments and to our location. We are providing food items, rents, funds for medical testing, and utilities along with a host of other unforeseen expenses.
We are also still looking for donors to help with our Foundation carpet and chair upgrade. For both replacement projects, we are looking to raise $20,000. We would like to purchase 36 chairs. For a donation of $300 or more, we will buy five. We will attach an inscription plaque on the back of one chair for those who want to be recognized. For those making a $500 or more donation toward carpet replacement, you will be recognized on our website and newsletter. As for any contributions, you will receive a very grateful thank you from our Foundation because through your generosity you are helping us to make this world just a little bit better. Please contact Lora at 405-550-8806 Ext. 101 or stop by and see us on a Tuesday or Thursday to help with this project. Thank you.
As an Accredited VA agent, I receive copies of the award letters sent to each claimant we serve. The combination of having this information, coupled with being able to review a claimant’s electronic VA file, creates powerful tools we use to gather the correct evidence. A long time ago, our group improved our practices to work with the client to obtain current medical evidence where needed. We see our role as a guide helping veterans navigate the complex VA claim process and a partner in gaining access to the necessary evidence. Many times, that evidence is found in a veteran’s electronic VA record. It often takes a while to review that evidence, but it is worth it. We find such things as the papers relating to a soldier’s entrance physical and treatment records. We supplement this data with a Disability Benefits Questionnaire signed by a medical professional to provide proof of a nexus between a condition and military service. If any of you have any questions about this process, please stop by and let us explain it to you. Often folks working on their own or with others fail to get the claim complete. Providing just a list of conditions for which you request the VA rule in your favor is rarely successful, and the VA denies the claim. So, if this has happened to you, you might want to try our methods. We’re happy to share with our experience and guide you through the preparation of a successful claim.
In the hundreds of VA letters I receive each week, we were notified 18 veterans received a rating of 100%. These folks will receive $766,450 on an annual basis. These men and women will also receive many other Oklahoma State benefits from reduced two auto tags, property tax exemption on their primary residence. Another benefit for veterans who are not retired military and are rated 100% service-connected is Champ-VA for their spouse and dependents. This is free medical insurance that may also be available to surviving spouses who are in receipt of DIC benefits. In the category of benefits awarded in the 10-90% range, 31 of our clients were awarded benefits and will receive $532,307 on an annual basis. Last year we helped more than 1000 veterans reach their 100% rating. Given these results, maybe it’s time for you to come in and see if we can help you.
One of the things that people asked us is why we have dedicated our lives to assisting veterans and their surviving spouses. That answer is one that can most easily be answered by a veteran who has faced the hardships that come from being away from friends and family for a year or more at a time. We know that if we do not help each other no one else is going to. Our goal has been to make a difference in the lives of every veteran and surviving spouse who walks through our doors. We know that every person we see are there because they need the assistance that our volunteers provide. We have had veterans who have told us that they were nearing the end of their lives before receiving the VA benefits that we were able to help them with. I believe that the services that our volunteers provide to the veterans and surviving spouses each week has saved countless lives. We do not know of any veteran who we have helped who has taken their own life. In 2012, I was invited to speak at a forum called, A Better Welcome Home held at Harvard University in the Kennedy Room. When it was my turn to speak to the other thirty-plus leaders of organizations who were helping veterans my keywords to what we do were, “By helping a veteran to receive VA benefits it would give them a little walking around money in their pocket. In other words, if you’re not broke things could get worse. “
When a veteran makes their first visit for help with their VA claims and questions, we encourage them to visit with the counselors from the Vet Centers that are at our location each Tuesday and Thursday morning. I’m a firm believer in mental health counseling for all of us, especially veterans who are transitioning back to civilian life.
We are available every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 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 at 8:00 a.m. and urge you to arrive as early as possible.
Counselors from the Vet Centers are here each session, and a Legal Aid representative is here on Thursdays. We have food baskets available for those who qualify. We look forward to your visit and thank you for trusting us to help you with your VA matters.
Visit our website at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org for more information. There you will find a section on Frequently Asked Questions. You may also contact us at 405-550-8806 for information or to schedule transportation.
As always, I want to say Thank You to all veterans and their families for their service to the United States of America.
Dale K. Graham, VA Accredited Claims Agent
Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation