Billy Tollison, United States Army Veteran
Dale K Graham Veterans Foundation
Congratulations to our veteran of the week, Mr. Billy Tollison of Garland, Texas. Mr. Tollison served honorably in the United States Army. Thank you for your service, sir. We appreciate your service and sacrifice.
We have been working diligently to find ways to keep the men and women who visit us each Tuesday and Thursday morning from having to stand in line until they receive a number. We have signed a lease on the adjoining office next to our location at 1268 North Interstate Drive in Norman, Oklahoma. Hopefully, having more room will allow us to add more cubicles that will enable us to process veterans and surviving spouses’ claims more quickly. There will also be a need to increase the number of volunteers that we have each morning. We have started having some of our volunteers start working at 10 AM to closing time. New start times will enable some of our volunteers who began at 4 AM the ability to quit for the day or get a much-needed break. The hours are long for all of us. As for me, it seems like my days are getting longer every week. It has been as late as 6 PM before finishing the review of the veterans’ claims each day we are open. We are addressing all the issues listed above to find ways to accommodate as many veterans who need our help and to keep our volunteers from burning out.
As many of you know, there are many stories that veterans and surviving spouses will want to discuss with our volunteers as we help them with their applications for VA benefits. We have the Oklahoma Vet Center Counselors here with us every Tuesday and Thursday ready, willing, and able to sit down with veterans who are suffering from any mental health issues. I can honestly say that none of the veterans we have ever helped with obtaining their VA benefits has taken their own life. One of the things that I tell veterans is that the things we think about are not quite as bad if you have a little walking around money in our pocket. If you have never been broke and hungry, you probably don’t understand what some of our veterans are going through on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons that we do what we can to help veterans and their families with a hand up not a handout.
Each week, I receive over five hundred letters from the VA and veterans. Some of these are decision letters where veterans are approved or denied. Others inform the veteran what is needed to support their claim for benefits. This past week we received the following rating decisions: Twenty-one veterans were rated at 100 % and will receive a combined annual $863,754. Forty-six veterans received ratings between 10%-90% and will receive a combined yearly $770,905. Our veterans rated at 100% will also be eligible for Oklahoma State and Federal Benefits. Some of these are exemption of property tax, sales tax exemption, two reduced auto tags, and free hunting and fishing license. The dependents of veterans who are not retired military are eligible for Champ VA medical insurance. Dependents of veterans rated 100% may also eligible to receive education benefits.
We also receive letters from veterans and their families, telling us how we changed their lives for the better. Occasionally, we receive a letter from a disgruntled veteran who was not approved for VA benefits. My theory on a claim that the VA denies is to read the decision letter and understand what they are saying. The VA is going to tell you in that decision letter why a claim is denied and what it takes for it to be approved. One of the things that I see is veterans who don’t like getting to our place early and having to wait their turn. They will usually not return and will go where they do not have to wait. We do the best we can with our staff of volunteers. None of us are paid for this job. We thank the rest of you for being understanding and patient. We use an evidence-based system for everyone who uses our services. We are going to suggest that a VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire be obtained from a medical provider to use as evidence for a claim to support service-connection of a disability or to show the severity of the illness or injury.
As most of you know, we are a 501-3-C Non-Profit, which means our services are free to everyone who we assist with our services. We operate on the donations from individuals, business or grants that we receive. Our budget each month to provide services such as rents, utilities, transportation and medical expenses for the men and women we assist is over twenty-five thousand dollars. This equates to over $300,000 per year in services to veterans and their families. For those of you who want to help us help others, please consider becoming a donor. Your gifts should be tax-deductible. You can donate directly on our website or mail to PO Box 592 Washington, OK 73093
We have four transportation vans we use to transport veterans to their VA appointments. Our pantry also has food sacks big enough to feed a family for a week at a time. These are available to those in our community who are doing without. We want to do everything possible to make a difference in the lives of the men and women who served our country.
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.
We are available every Tuesday and Thursday morning 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.
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