I hope that all of you enjoyed the recent Memorial Day with family and friends. As we get older, most of us will be thinking more about the people who shaped our lives who are no longer with us. As veterans, some of us remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice so others could live. Our prayers are with the families of those men and women who have gone before us.

Each week, we recognize the veterans who served in either World War II or the Korean War. We introduce them to our volunteers and the hundreds of veterans who visit us each Tuesday and Thursday morning. We would like to honor WWII veteran Mr. Albert Gallaher as our veteran of the week. Gallaher, of Blanchard, served honorably as a member of the United States Army. We appreciate the sacrifices that he made during his military service. A military cap signifying his military service in WWII was presented to him.

Last week, rainy weather did not prevent over 290 veterans and surviving spouses from visiting the veterans foundation for assistance with VA claims and questions. For many years, we thought that, at some point in time, we would see a decrease in the number of veterans who visited us each week. Just the opposite has happened as we continue to see an increased number of veterans each year.

When we first started helping other veterans, most of us did not understand what was required by the VA for their claim to be approved. Today, the first thing we do is file an (Intent to File) VA Form 21-0966. This establishes a start date for either a new claim or for a re-evaluation of an existing service-connected disability.

We then ask the veteran to request that their medical provider fill out a VA (DBQ) Disability Benefits Questionnaire. These completed forms are then used as evidence to support veterans' applications for benefits Form 21-526 EZ. When a veteran claim for increase or service-connection of a new disability is filed using DBQ evidence, their chance or an increased rating or approval of a new disability will be improved significantly over those that file without evidence.

Maybe one of the reasons we are so successful helping veterans to receive VA benefits is our system of filing evidence-based claims using the VA DBQ Forms. Since the VA uses similar forms to evaluate veterans' disabilities, we should do the same.

Last week, volunteers assisted 140 veterans and surviving spouses Tuesday and 150 on Thursday. Some of us arrive at 4 a.m. to start preparing everything that is required to serve the men and women who served in the military. We stay until the last person has been assisted, which means our days are from 11 to 12 hours each Tuesday and Thursday.

For those of you who would like to help us to make a difference in the lives of veterans and their families, volunteer applications are available. If you would like to be a donor, contact Executive Director Lora Malone at our location or by calling 550-8806. There are always veterans and their families who will need a hand up at some point in their lives. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and donations will make a difference in the lives of those who have served in the United States military.

As a VA accredited claims agent, I receive a copy of all VA correspondence for those who we represent. On a weekly average, this is over 700 separate pieces of mail received, each of which we review and send letters to those who need to return for a follow-up visit.

Twenty-five veterans were approved at 100 percent and will receive a combined annual $1,016,368. Sixty-one veterans were approved for service-connected benefits rated 10 to 90 percent and will receive a combined annual amount of $1,078,456.

We are available every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 1268 N. Interstate Drive in Norman. The doors open by 5:30 a.m., and we begin working as soon as volunteers have computers ready. For more information, visit dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org and search under "Frequently Asked Questions," or call 550-8806.

Thank you to all veterans and their families for their service to the United States of America.

Semper fi.

Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation is not affiliated with any other organization. Dale K. Graham is a VA accredited claims agent.