Several organizations have services at our location each week. Legal Aid for veterans is available each Thursday morning.  Counselors from the Vet Center will be available each Tuesday and Thursday morning to answer questions about their services.  

Our Foundation celebrated our one- year anniversary at our Norman location on Wednesday, September 12, 2018, at 1268 north Interstate Drive.  Many of our volunteers and Board members were in attendance for this historic event.  Our featured speakers, Board President Jeri Towler Holmes, and our Executive Director, Lora Malone delivered a great update on where we are and where this organization will be in the future.   Entertainment was provided by international guitarist Edgar Cruz and was appreciated by all in attendance.

Our veteran of the week is Mr.  Gene Anoatubby who served honorably during the Korean War. As he made his first visit to our Foundation, we recognized him with a cap representing his service.  Mr. Anoatubby served in the United States Air Force. As he was exposed to many types of acoustic trauma from artillery to gunfire, we are going to file a claim for service-connection of hearing loss and tinnitus.  I’m sure that we will be seeing more of him and his wife as the VA processes his claim for VA benefits.   Thank You for your Service Sir!

I continue to be very proud of all our volunteers who are giving their time each Tuesday and Thursday morning helping us to make a difference in the lives of veterans and their families.  As most everyone knows our services are provided FREE to everyone, we assist. Many veterans have tried for many years to receive VA benefits for injuries that occurred in the military but were denied.  The reason we are successful where others are not is that we ask each veteran to use the VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire forms the VA provides for a diagnosis of a disability.  These forms are also used to measure the severity of the veteran’s disability.  We also ask veterans to obtain statements from people who were with them when the incident or injury occurred.  Also, we ask the veteran to obtain statements from family members who know about the event and what it has done to the veteran.  Another type of evidence we use are letters written home telling what happened along with any pictures or newspaper articles.   The most important thing a veteran can do is obtain all the evidence that will support their claim for service connection of a disability.  As more people become aware of the Me-Too movement and the sexual assaults that some women and men in uniform experienced, we are seeing an increased number of veterans stepping forward to ask us for help with filing a claim.  When we triage a veteran, one of the questions we ask is: Were you ever assaulted in the military?  If their answer is yes, we then ask them to visit with one of our same gender volunteers who specializes in those types of disability claims.  We then usually suggest they see a psychiatrist who will fill out a VA Disability Benefits for an evaluation regarding whether the veteran has PTSD or other types of mental disabilities.

While talking to a veteran last week, he told me he uses the CART bus service in Norman to go to the Oklahoma City VA hospital for his doctor appointments.  He said for a buck fifty it’s hard to beat and that it makes four trips to and from there daily.  That could save our drivers a lot of time and gas money if more of our local veterans used that service.  I had a veteran from California call me Thursday evening needing a ride to his medical appointments scheduled for early Friday morning from an OK City hotel to Norman.  As we did not have a driver available, we set him up with an Uber driver who transported him at a fair price and on time.  I’m going to encourage some of the people we transport to start using Uber for some of their transportation needs.  Using alternative transportation options will benefit our drivers too who last week spent 65 hours traveling 1,464 miles transporting 25 veterans.

I have not said anything about the VA Claims Process in a while so maybe it’s time to tell you what we have seen in the last year.  On average, the claims that we are helping veterans to file are being processed quicker than we have seen in many years.  We are continuing to see an increased number of veterans who are receiving a 100% rating decision for their service-connected disabilities.  As of Monday, September 16, 2018, we have helped 625 veterans receive that rating since January 1, 2018.   During the twenty -five years we have been trying to help veterans I have never seen so many veterans approved for VA benefits.  I believe two main factors can account for the increase.  The first reason is the VA has set up a program called RAMP (Rapid Appeals Modernization Program to process the hundreds of thousands of VA claims appealed by veterans who were dissatisfied with their VA rating decisions.  Some of the appeals were filed several years ago.  We are seeing some of the RAMP cases being resolved in just a few months.  The second reason is the Fully Developed Claims process established several years ago.  The Fully Developed Claims process enables veterans or surviving spouses to supply all of the evidence needed to support their claim for an increase of their current rating.  The Fully Developed Claims process can also be used to request service-connection of a new disability when applying for benefits.  By using the Disability Benefits Questionnaire (“DBQ”) forms that are available from the VA some claims get approved without the veteran going out for an evaluation by a VA doctor or contract medical provider.  We are continuing to use the VA 21-0966 Intent to file to establish a start date for VA benefits which is the first day of the following month.  This gives the veteran one year to gather all the evidence needed to file the Fully Developed Claim, which could grant payments back to the start date of the 21-0966.

As a VA Accredited Claims Agent, I receive the rating decisions, and other correspondence the VA sends to the veterans and surviving spouses. Having these decision letters also enables me to review the VA’s digital claim folder for the veteran or a surviving spouse.  Having the ability to see all the records and decisions helps us to understand better why benefits were denied or the award was low.  I can also review what the examiner with QTC, LHI, and the VA Hospital C&P examiners stated on a veteran’s DBQ reports.  Sometimes we will find discrepancies or errors in the QTC, LHI, or the VA’s C & P reports that may allow us to challenge a service-connection request that was wrongfully denied successfully.

Last week there were 25 veterans both male and female who received a 100% rating for their service-connected disabilities.  They will receive an annual combined amount of $923,869 per year.  Thirty veterans received disability ratings from 10% to 90% for their service-connected disabilities.  They will receive a combined annual income of $431,950 per year.  We also received award letters showing two surviving spouses approved for DIC, Pension or Aid and Attendance.  They will receive a combined annual amount of $30,795 per year.

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 at 8:00 a.m. and urge you to arrive as soon as possible. Contact us with any questions by email at dale@dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org.  For telephone assistance, please call 405-550-8806 to listen to our options. For general information dial extension 101, to schedule transportation dial extension 105 or 106. For help with Surviving Spouse Benefits, dial extension 104, or stop by any Tuesday or Thursday morning. Visit our website at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org. Semper Fi!

As always, I want to say Thank You to all veterans and their families for their service to this United States of America.

 

Dale K. Graham, USMC, VA Accredited Claims Agent

Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation