The Norman Transcript

August 21, 2013

Veterans Corner honors volunteer, Norman resident


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The volunteer of the week, Ramiro Rocha, is an Army veteran who we are all proud to call a friend. Ramiro is married to Carolyn and they make their home in Norman, where he is active in the community. Ramiro has been a volunteer for several years, always ready to take on any project that needs to be done.

Last week, he took on the biggest one of his life when he underwent a heart transplant at Baptist Hospital. I’m glad to say that it was very successful and he continues to grow stronger each day. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

Each week, we receive many cards, letters or emails from veterans and surviving spouses who we have assisted to obtain VA benefits. One of the surviving spouses who Patti recently helped called to say she was approved for DIC benefits. She went from not having enough money to live on each month to having $15,000 back pay deposited to her bank account. She will receive $1,200 each month for the rest of her life.

We see this type of story many times each week. If you are a surviving spouse of a veteran, consider visiting us at the Goldsby Community Center on a Thursday morning. Shirley can be reached at 361-9322 for questions about possible VA benefits.

One hundred and nineteen veterans and surviving spouses made the trip for assistance last week. Of that number, seven veterans received a 100 percent rating for their disabilities that were caused by or aggravated by military service.

Those who receive the 100 percent rating should return for a follow-up visit for assistance in applying for their other Oklahoma state tax benefits and medical insurance for their spouses if they are not retired military.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is in the process of improving the way we submit claims and the way they process them.

Last week, Veterans Corner was invited to participate in the inaugural Fully Developed Claims Workshop in the Muskogee VA Regional Office. I can honestly say that this was a milestone for volunteers and the veterans who we serve. Twenty-five of our people attended the training that was provided by the VA Director Jason McClellan and his staff.

The VA is moving to a paperless rating system for as many veterans claims as possible. As we become more proficient in filing veterans and surviving spouses claims electronically, the time that it takes for a decision to be made by the VA will be shortened significantly. Currently many claims are taking up to a year, where with the new system we may have a decision in 45 to 90 days.

We also have been using the new VA Disability Questionnaires in conjunction with the 21-526 EZ. If each veteran would enroll in this new system on their computer and then make the trip to Goldsby for assistance in filing, we could make this work very well. Visit ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits-portal for information on registering.

On Friday, Shirley, Don, Marilyn and I participated in another event that is geared to bringing resources together for our military members, veterans and their families.

We were part of Military Resource Speed Sharing sponsored by Veterans’ Families United and the Mental Health Association of Central Oklahoma.

We were one of 30 organizations that were present at the meeting to share how each of us serve our military communities’ families and veterans. This will give us another avenue that is available to assist those who need assistance.

Each organization was allowed to speak about the services that they provide in the community. We also received information sheets with contact numbers that will be available to those veterans and their families who we assist.

Jerry Baxter, treasurer, assisted veterans with $2,500 from the benevolence fund last week with rent, doctor visits and medical testing and gas cards.

Individuals that need food or other household items can visit with Sid Smith, who brings food boxes each week to the Goldsby Community Center on Thursday mornings. He also can be reached at 573-1990 most any time.

Veterans Corner has two vans, one of which has a wheelchair lift, to transport those veterans to their VA medical appointments. We also have two drivers who use their personal cars to transport veterans to VA appointments.

If you need a ride or know a veteran who does, call Clayton Lee, 684-8860, to set up a driver. For the Norman area, call Harold Martin at 227-3239 or Robert Root at 919-3008. For the Moore area, call Howard Robertson at 205-4895.

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., and sign-in sheets are available at 5:30 a.m.

If you would like to be a Veterans Corner sponsor, we are a nonprofit, where your donations should be tax deductible. We help veterans and widows in our community.

You may send donations to Veterans Corner, P.O. Box 704 Washington, OK, 73093.

You can call me at 550-8806 or email kdgraham@windstream.net.

Semper Fi.

Dale K. Graham is service officer for VFW Post 4890.