Our veteran of the week is one of my Heroes, Jack O. Anderson who recently fought his last battle from exposure to Agent Orange. Jack and I were friends from grade school after which we both joined the military after high school graduation from Dibble High School.  Jack was an adventurist in many ways.  When we were thirteen years old, we hitchhiked seventeen miles to Chickasha, so he could see his girlfriend. After joining the Navy, that same adventurist spirit led him to volunteer to be a gunner on the PBR boats patrolling the rivers of the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War.  While serving there, Jack was wounded twice and was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with Combat V.  Jack, like many veterans who returned home from war, looked the same yet was changed in many ways.  I’m very proud to have known Jack and to have called him a friend.  Gone but not forgotten.

One of the most important things we provide for veterans is our transportation service.  We have two full-time drivers, Clayton Lee and Louie Metseff, who stay very are busy taking veterans to their VA appointments daily.   Each week they log more than a thousand miles providing rides for those who need this service.  Just last week, these two exceptional volunteers donated 63 hours transporting 17 veterans.  Our Handicap accessible van is now available to transport veterans to their VA appointments.  To schedule wheelchair accessible transportation contact Lora at 405- 550-8806.  As our population continues to age, we are going to need others to step up to provide relief for Clayton and Louie.  We have volunteer applications available to those who would like to help us serve veterans and their spouses.The spring rains meant a slower week for our volunteers last week as there were only 230 veterans and surviving spouses who visited us at 1268 North Interstate drive in Norman, Oklahoma.  Needless to say, our volunteers did not mind having a less hectic day several of them said they were going home for a nap after we finished.

By being a VA Accredited Claims Agent, there are several benefits available to the veterans and surviving spouses we represent.  One of the most important is the ability to review their claims in the VA computer system.  For instance, if a veteran comes in and wants to know how their claim is progressing through the VA system, we can open up their file to review their claim status.  Another plus is that I receive a copy of everything the VA sends to the veteran or surviving spouse.  This enables us to send a letter telling our clients what to do next.  I received the following VA rating decisions last week; there were nine veterans awarded a 100% rating for their service-connected disabilities.  These men and women will receive a combined annual amount of $352,548 per year.  There were 16 veterans awarded ratings from 10% to 90% ninety percent for their service-connected disabilities.  These men and women will receive a combined annual amount of $211,902 per year. One surviving spouse was awarded DIC. Needless to say, these awards will make life a little easier for the men and women who served our country in the military.  For those who receive a service-connected disability rating of 35% or more, the VA will also provide an increased amount if they have dependents.  As the veterans rating increases, our state offers additional benefits when a 50% VA disability rating is achieved.  Oklahoma benefits continue to increase as a veteran’s rating increases.  For more information on state benefits, please stop by and visit with one of our volunteers.

As many of you know, we spend more than $30,000 each month providing services to veterans and their families.  This money comes from the veterans and their families we serve.  We are not funded by any Government Agency.  Everyone who assists veterans is a volunteer including myself.  Your financial support is needed to allow us and our volunteers to continue making a difference in the lives of our veterans and their families.  Our volunteers can show you how to establish an automatic monthly contribution from your checking or credit cards.  Since many people do not carry cash anymore, we adopted a new method to receive small donations that some of our local churches are using for special projects.  It is called a DipJar and donates $20 when you dip your credit card or check card.  Double dippers are encouraged! As veterans, we know if we don’t help each other anyone else is going to do it.  Our program of accepting cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other items that can be given to veterans or sold to raise funds to support our programs continues to be very successful.  As we have all found, most car companies don’t allow much for our trade-in vehicles.  If you donate your old one and take the deduction off of your taxes many times, you can lower your tax bill more than the actual trade-in allowance.  Donors use the NADA retail price to determine the value of their cars and trucks.  Non-profits such as ours do not place a value on donations.

Our volunteers who assist surviving spouses have been very busy the last few weeks averaging more than fifteen each week.  We suggest all surviving spouses visit with one of our specialists about the possibility of receiving VA benefits based on their veteran’s military service.  Many diseases are presumptive to some veteran’s military service.  If a veteran served in Vietnam, Camp Lejeune, Gulf Wars or other places where they were exposed to fuels, chemicals or herbicides the veteran or their surviving spouse should visit 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 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!