The Norman Transcript

February 19, 2014

House bill could give more veterans state benefits

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — We are recognizing Brenda Berry as the volunteer of the week. She is always ready to take on any task that needs to be done on Thursday mornings.

With her quick smile, she is a hit with all of our veterans and their spouses. Brenda is married to Robert, who is a veteran of the U.S. Army. She has been with Veterans Corner since 2012.

There is a House bill that could give Oklahoma state benefits to many more veterans in the state.

The bill is being introduced by Sen. Frank Simpson that would give peace-time veterans access to the seven long-term care centers that are operated by the state Veterans Affairs Department. Currently, only those veterans who served during a certain war-time periods are eligible.

Those war-time veterans who are rated at 70 percent and above disabled for a service-connected disability are eligible at no cost to reside at these state-operated Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

Another service that may affect those veterans who have run afoul of the law is a service being introduced by Julia Curry of Oklahoma Court Services. They have programs that may benefit veterans who are required to do community service through the Cleveland County court system.

We have assisted some of their clients at Veterans Corner in filing for VA benefits. I know that many of the young men and women who are returning from the military have problems readjusting to civilian life. If Julia can help through their programs, I do support their efforts. Their office is at 302 S. Peters Ave. Their phone number is 919-0814.

Veterans Corner will present a PowerPoint presentation on VA benefits for county employees and retirees at the Cleveland County Court House soon. We are planning this through the office of County Commissioner Rusty Sullivan. We hope to have this scheduled for a Tuesday during March.

We hosted the first of three training classes Feb. 11, which was a success. Forty-six volunteers participated in training to become more knowledgeable in the VA claims process.

The instructors were Shirley Clark-Cowdin, Betty Van Noy, Harold Reed, Travis Wright and myself. The next training class will be 5 p.m. March 4 at the Goldsby Community Center. The dinner was provided by Jerry Baxter, Sid Smith and Jimmy Flowers.

The sunshine and warm weather helped bring 141 veterans and surviving spouses to Veterans Corner last Thursday. Of that number, 11 veterans received a VA rating of 100 percent for their service-connected disabilities.

Seventeen veterans filed their first claims for VA benefits last week. We continue to use the new VA claims forms, called the Fully Developed Claims, along with the Disability Benefits Questionnaires. With this system, many of the veterans’ claims can be approved within 120 days or so.

Shirley, along with her lady helpers, assisted 14 surviving spouses with their applications for VA benefits. These claims are processed by the VA Pension Benefits Center in Minnesota.

Lately, we have seen some of the surviving spouse claims finished in 60 to 90 days. That short of time frame is the exception, as most of them will take longer for a decision. If you are a surviving spouse of a veteran and need assistance, contact Shirley at 361-9322 or me at 550-8806. 

We also provide food and other household items when possible. If you need certain handicap items, such as walkers or wheelchairs, we sometimes have these types of items. The items we have are given to us to pass to the next person in need. If you have any of these items, we could certainly use them.

Plans to build a Veterans Corner facility continue to be on schedule. We are hoping to start the dirt work on this project in the next few months. John Carter continues to work on the building plans and on the funding for this project. John can be reached at 202-1999.

We have a handicapped-accessible van that can be given or loaned to a veteran who is in need of transportation. For questions, call 550-8806.

For those who need food items, Sid Smith has food boxes prepared each Thursday.

For all of your questions and assistance about veterans’ benefits, we are at the Goldsby Community Center each Thursday. The doors open at 7 a.m. each Thursday, and sign-in sheets are available at 5:30 a.m.

Take time to visit

Donations for the benevolence fund may be sent to Veterans Corner, P.O. Box 704, Washington, OK 73093. Donations for the building fund may be sent to Veterans Corner, c/o Dale Graham, P.O. Box 72160 Norman, OK 73070.

Semper Fi.

Dale K. Graham is service officer of Veterans Corner.

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