In remembrance on this Memorial Day, let us take a moment and reflect upon those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and our country.

Instead of naming a veteran of the week, we are sharing a photo of the incredible amount of Veterans Administration mail we received just this week.

We received 652 rating decisions or other types of letters in five days.  There were 61 veterans who received VA Disability Rating of 100%.

In many ways, last week was one for the record books at our 1268 North Interstate Drive location in Norman.  Tuesday morning started out the same as it always does with fifty or sixty veterans coming through our doors before 5:30 AM.  That was the only part of the day that stayed the same as usual.  There were one hundred and fifty-three of them our volunteers were able to assist.  By the time we finished around two thirty in the afternoon, most of us were ready for a nap in our recliners at home.  Thursday we were not as crowded, but it was still a very busy day for all of us.  There were over one hundred and forty who visited us just on Thursday.  We were able to assist all the veterans and surviving spouses with their claims and questions with no problems.  Our biggest challenge was the large amount of mail we received from the Department of Veterans Affairs during the week.  I’m copied on every VA rating decision and other communication that VA sends to the veterans and spouses represented at our foundation.  There were 652 rating decisions or other types of letters received in five days.  Each of these mailings is opened and evaluated so our volunteers may send the proper letter explaining what other benefits they could be eligible to receive along with instructions about what their next step should be.  It took three of us more than four hours to open and sort through those letters.  I don’t have any idea why we received such a large quantity of VA mail.  We were counting the number of veterans who received a one hundred percent rating for their service-connected disabilities and we had to go back and count them over, as there were more than I thought we could ever receive in one week.  Are you ready to hear that number?  There were 61 veterans who received VA Disability Rating of 100%. These men and women will receive an annual combined amount of $1,939,803.   We thought maybe the mail clerk went on vacation and there was no one to send it.  Also, there were 116 veterans who received VA disability ratings from 10% to 90% for their service-connected disabilities.  These men and women will receive an annual combined amount of $1,393,101 per year.  I don’t know how all these men and women could receive that rating in one week unless the VA did not send out a lot of their mail in the last month or so.  Two surviving spouses were awarded either Pension, DIC or Aid and Attendance benefits based on their spouse’s military service.  They will receive a combined annual amount of $30,795 per year.  Veterans who receive Disability Compensation may be eligible for other state and federal benefits based on the percentage of their service-connected disability.  Our State of Oklahoma has been very helpful in many ways to our disabled veterans.  One of the biggest benefits for those rated at 100% for their service-connected disabilities is the property tax exemption on their primary residence.  Since the value of our homes have escalated in the last few years that could be a savings of thousands of dollars per year.  Those who are rated at 100% are also eligible for the state sales tax exemption on all their purchases.  Auto tags are also reduced for a veteran when a 60% service-connected disability rating is granted.  Spouses and dependents whose Veteran receives a 100% VA disability rating may be eligible for the Champ-VA medical insurance.

One of the things I have noticed over the last fifteen years is the number of places available for veterans to seek assistance with their VA claims and questions.  Almost every town has a veteran’s organization that helps veterans file for benefits.  Some of them will be able to help a veteran or spouse receive VA benefits while other organizations will not.  I look at it as one of our Marine volunteers Dick Clark of Norman put it several years ago he said if you are going out to eat and one restaurant has a line of people waiting to get in while the restaurant across the street is empty, you must ask yourself which one serves the best food?  We look at helping veterans and spouses the same way because there is always a line of folks going into our Foundation.  As of a few weeks ago, we have had visitors from forty-four states and four countries who have made a trip to see us for help with their VA claims and questions.  One of the veterans we helped Thursday had driven from the state of Minnesota for assistance from our volunteers.  I doubt you will find anyplace else in this nation that is doing so much for so many for FREE.  Our local eating establishments, hotels, and motels might consider offering some discounts or other amenities to the many veterans who are making the trip to Norman to see us each week.  Many of them will be staying for several days as they schedule their appointments.  For those of you who have not visited our home in Norman, we are open at 5:30 AM each Tuesday and Thursday morning to serve all veterans and their spouses.  Coffee and Doughnuts are always available to everyone at no charge.  I would like to make this an open invitation to anyone who has never visited with us to stop by to see what goes on those two days each week.  I believe the men and women who volunteer their time each week helping to make a difference in the lives of veterans and their families are the best and brightest in our state.  We are here for only one reason, and that is to make a difference in the lives of Americans who have served our nation’s military.

Please remember we provide food items for needy veterans and their surviving spouses. We share our information about other area resources too.   We also provide transportation to veterans to their VA medical appointments.  These services and everything we do or provide are always free thanks to the generous donations of our supporters.

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 by email dale@dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org.  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. Visit our website at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org. Semper Fi!