NORMAN — The volunteer of the week is a lady whose job has been behind the scenes on Thursday mornings. We are proud to have Mary Lynne Simer on our team. She is part of the crew who works in the accounting department helping to keep track of all donations that are made to the benevolence fund. She is a surviving spouse of an Air Force veteran. She has been with us for the last three years doing her part to improve the lives of our veterans and their families.
Before we start this week’s veteran’s news I wanted to share a call I received yesterday from a veteran from Lawton who we had assisted several years ago to receive VA benefits. He told me that he had lost his wife last week who had been disabled for the last 20 years and needed to know how to contact VA to notify them to stop payments for aid and attendance and to remove her as a dependent.
After giving him the information he requested and offering our condolences, he said that he wanted to tell me what had happened several weeks ago. She had asked him to take her to the Goldsby Memorial so that she could see his brick along the Walk of Honor. When they arrived he placed her into the wheelchair and pushed her to his brick along the walk. He said that this was the happiest he had seen her in a very long time and that he wanted to thank us for everything that we did to help him to be able to provide for her.
Every week I receive cards or calls from veterans, their spouses or other family members thanking volunteers for what we have done to help them and their families. If you are a veteran or surviving spouse, stop by any Thursday morning for information about possible VA benefits.
There were 102 veterans and surviving spouses who were assisted last Thursday morning at the Goldsby Community Building. Of that number, 16 of these were surviving spouses who were filing for DIC benefits (the veteran’s death was caused by a service connected disability or one that is presumptive to military service) or pension benefits (based on the surviving spouse’s income and medical expense).
There were two veterans who received a rating of 100 percent for their service connected disabilities. These veterans will receive several state benefits along with VA compensation for their injuries or illnesses. Since we started assisting veterans, there have been more than 1,000 who received a rating of 100 percent for their service connected disabilities. These were both men and women whose lives were dramatically changed by military service. Some of those who received that rating for their disabilities were young veterans who were injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Many younger veterans are having better luck receiving service connection for the injuries that occurred in military service. I believe part of the reason is because medical care is more accessible today compared to what was available in other wars. Today’s veteran comes in to see us and may have his or her complete medical record, which is very uncommon for our older veterans.
There were 11 veterans who filed their first claim for VA benefits Thursday morning. We are trying to use the new VA claims form 21-526EZ and the Disability Benefits Questionnaire forms on as many veterans as we are able. We would like to start submitting as many veteran applications for benefits electronically as soon as possible. To do this we will need each veteran to have an account at www.ebenefits.va.gov. If you are planning a trip to Goldsby and you have Internet access, consider setting up an account for your VA benefits. We are trying to develop a system to do this at Goldsby for those that do not have Internet access. Many claims using the old VA forms are taking a year or more for a decision to be reached for veteran claims. With the new forms they are trying to reach decisions on disability claims in 60 to 90 days.
For those who need food items, Sid Smith has food boxes prepared each Thursday for anyone who needs this assistance.
As many of you know, we have three vans that are used to transport veterans to their VA appointments. One of these is equipped with a wheelchair lift. Driver Clayton Lee of Dibble can be reached at 684-8860. Other drivers are Howard Martin of Norman who drives the wheelchair accessible van. He can be reached at 227-3239, Robert Root of Norman can be reached at 919-3008.
Dale K. Graham is service officer for VFW Post 4890.