As we continue to serve our veterans and their families at our Veterans Foundation, I would like to take this opportunity to say Thank You to the men and women who have made what we do possible.  Without your support, this organization would not be able to help the hundreds of veterans and their families who visit us each week.  Since moving to our new location in Norman located at 1268 North Interstate Drive, we have been assisting an average of 275 veterans and surviving spouses each week.  We have asked for and received financial support through the donations of cars, trucks, motorcycles and handicapped items that can be used by veterans or sold to raise funds to support those who have served our country.  For those of you who would like to join our team of volunteers or donors, please visit us any Tuesday or Thursday morning.  On an average month, we are spending $25,000 in direct or indirect support for veterans and their families.  That money comes from the men and women who believe in what we are doing for those who have done so much for this country.  The Veterans who visit us are made up of men and women of many different nationalities, yet they are all Americans and believe in serving this United States to the best of their abilities.  Many years ago, this country was called a melting pot of people.  I believe that when people from other countries join the military, we become a true melting pot where we learn to live with people from different cultures.

Our veteran of the week Mr. Anthony Lackey served in both World War II and the Korean War.  It was our privilege to introduce him to the hundreds of people in attendance Thursday morning at our Veterans Foundation.  We also presented him with one of our caps representing his service in the military.  Thank you, Mr. Lackey, for your service to this United States.  Meeting the men and women who served our country in those wars is an honor and privilege that I do not take lightly.  This veteran was transported by one our two drivers who spent 68 hours carrying 18 folks 916 miles last week.

Each week I receive calls from veterans or surviving spouses wanting to know why so many people visit us for help with their VA claims and questions.  My answer is always the same; our volunteers are what make the difference.  We also take steps to ensure proper quality control on each claim for VA benefits.  One thing that would help speed up the time it takes for a decision is if we were able to submit veteran’s claims electronically.  Currently, our fastest method is by faxing them to Janesville, Wisconsin to be scanned into the veteran’s electronic claims folder.  As we continue to grow, we hope to be able to purchase a computer and scanning system that gives us the ability to file all claims electronically.  Maybe one of our supporters can help us with that.

Last week a new record was set for the number of our veterans who received a 100% rating for their service-connected disabilities. We are very proud to say there were 17 men and women awarded that rating.   They will receive a combined annual amount of $971,630 per year.  Twenty-two veterans received service-connected disabilities ranging from 10% to 90% and will receive a combined annual income of $ 270,993 per year.  There were three surviving spouses of veterans approved for DIC, Pension or the Aid and Attendance benefits.   Their combined annual VA benefit will be $4,907. Some veterans and their surviving spouses will be eligible to receive the Aid and Attendance benefit when they need assistance from others especially when they are in a nursing home or other type of facility.  For any questions that you may have on those type of benefits please visit with one of our volunteers who specialize in surviving spouse benefits.  The men and women rated 100% service-connected will also receive the Oklahoma State Benefits that consist of property tax exemption, sales tax exemption, discounted auto tags, and free hunting and fishing licenses.  Dependents of veterans who were not retired from the military and received a 100% disability are eligible to receive the medical insurance Champ-VA at no cost.   Another benefit many veterans and their families don’t know about is our veteran’s facilities administered by the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.  When a veteran has a service-connected disability rated from 70% to 100% there is no cost to the veteran to reside at one of these state facilities.  That could be a game changer for those families who cannot afford a nursing home for their veteran.

Each week there are veterans from other states who make the trip to see us for help with their VA claims and questions.  Last Thursday there were veterans from San Diego, California, Atlanta, Georgia, Kansas, Arizona, and Texas who visited us at our location in Norman, Oklahoma.   It seems our reputation for getting things done for veterans has made the rounds in many states.  Of course, ninety percent of the people we assist are from Oklahoma.  Veterans and surviving spouses visit us from all 77 counties in Oklahoma.  When I asked them why they traveled to Norman for help with their VA claims the answer is usually that we had helped someone they knew to receive their VA benefits.

As a VA Accredited Claims Agent, a VA Form 21-22A is filed on each veteran or surviving spouse I represented at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  This allows me to review their VA claims folder.  The ability to electronically review the veterans VA claims folder has been a valuable tool to ensure their claims were processed correctly and examine the evaluations prepared by the VA contractors such as QTC, LHI, Vets Services or the VA medical facilities who perform C and P examinations.

Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation has food boxes 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 box.

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  Visit our website at Semper Fi!