As a VA accredited claims agent for more than 21,000 veterans and surviving spouses, some VA claims will be denied. Our next step is to challenge that ruling three times. When this doesn't work and the claim is denied, a notice of disagreement will be filed to start the appeal process.

As the claim works its way through the VA appeals system, some claims will end up at the Board of Veterans Affairs.

The BVS will then schedule us for a video conference before a VA administrative law judge who will preside at a local hearing via a link to their office in Washington, D.C.

Until recently, these hearings were in Muskogee, requiring both the veterans or surviving spouses to travel, as well as volunteers. A round trip from Norman to Muskogee involved around six hours in travel time. The hearings were brief and spanned less than 30 minutes.

Our veteran of the week is Henry Gowan, who served honorably during the Korean War. Thank you to him and all of men and women who have answered America's call to serve in the military.

One reason we encourage all veterans to apply for benefits is the high cost of medical care. Most veterans do not qualify for VA health care unless they have a service-connected disability or are living below the poverty level. Over the last 20 years, we have helped tens of thousands of veterans to qualify.

Service connection makes a huge difference for veterans who have no other options for medical care. That 10 percent rating for tinnitus might save your life someday if you needed medical attention.

For those of you who would like to support our veterans foundation, we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so your donations should be tax deductible.

Since all of us are volunteers, most of the money we receive goes for support of veterans and their families.

We also accept the donation of cars, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, wheelchairs and other types of handicapped equipment that can be given to veterans and their families or sold to raise operational funds.

Surviving spouses who visit us each week are a very important part of what we do.

Many of them will visit us for the first time not knowing if they are eligible to receive VA benefits based on their veteran's military service.

For those whose veteran was receiving VA benefits, it is usually easier to service connect their death.

Surviving spouses of veterans who served where there were presumptive diseases caused by Agent Orange, Camp Leguine or served in the Gulf War may qualify if one of the presumptive diseases is listed on the veterans death certificate. We encourage all surviving spouses to visit with one of our surviving spouse specialists.

Several organizations have services at our location each week. Legal aid for veterans is available each Thursday morning. We also have counselors from the veterans center here to help you each Tuesday and Thursday morning and answer questions about their services.

We are available every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the 1268 N. Interstate Drive, Norman, OK 73072.

We open the doors by 5:30 a.m. and begin working as soon as volunteers have computers ready. We stop taking clients at 8 and urge you to arrive as early as possible.

Visit for more information. Semper fi.

As always, thank you to all veterans and their families for their service to this United States of America.

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