Task force advocates for veterans at D.C.

Photo Provided

Rhonda Reynolds and Lora Malone, executive director of the Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation board, tour the Pentagon during a visit to Washington, D.C.

Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation's board of directors formed a task force to visit the offices of various Congressional members to discuss issues affecting veterans and the work our 60-plus volunteers are doing to address those issues. On Aug. 8, our task force began a two-day assignment in Washington, D.C.

In the group were Executive Director Lora Malone, board members Dr. Les Nunn and Col. Chuck DeBellevue, and Rhonda Reynolds. They spent time in the offices of Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Tom Cole, Rep. Kendra Horn, Rep. Frank Lucas and Rep. Markwayne Mullin.

During each session, they shared information about our work in Norman, all 77 counties in Oklahoma and in the 48 other states and five foreign countries where the Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation serves clients. The task force engaged in productive conferences that will lead to further discussions and developments.

Our task force also had two meetings at the Board of Veterans Appeals. They met with Chairman Cheryl Mason and toured the BVA hearing facilities. BVA hearings may be conducted via video conference, where the administrative law judge presides from Washington, D.C., and our clients appear with myself and Rhonda Reynolds in Oklahoma City. Our foundation has participated in more than 120 BVA hearings in the last 15 months, resulting in favorable rulings.

We are looking forward to an upcoming Oklahoma visit by BVA staff members next month. We also have begun making plans for a training session that BVA will conduct during a second Oklahoma visit.

On Friday morning, our group squeezed in a tour of the Pentagon. DeBellevue provided great insight about the critical work carried on at the Pentagon. He also shared information about the background of the joint chiefs of staff and others whose portraits adorn the Pentagon halls. The Pentagon visit was arranged by one of the veterans we have helped, Steven Pyrzynski, of Michigan. He told us it was the least he could do, as our group does so much for so many.

Our organization continues to grow in the number of veterans and surviving spouses assisted each week with their VA claims and questions. One of the ways we are trying to increase the number of people we see is through our quality control effort, ensuring each veteran's claim is completed the first time correctly.

Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, there are more veterans and surviving spouses lining up than we can accommodate.We can only accept 150 people. When I get there before 4 a.m., the line is already a block long and growing.

We also work to improve our services by continual training for our volunteers in the many ways that the VA is improving their forms and processes. All of us can see a difference in the time the VA takes to make a decision for a veteran or surviving spouse applications for benefits. We believe the VA is on the right track to clear the hundreds of thousands of claims backlogged in their system.

Last week, 34 veterans received 100 percent rating decisions for their service-connected disabilities and will receive a combined amount of $1,268,158 a year. Seventy-three veterans received disability ratings ranging from 10 to 90 percent, for a combined annual amount of $985,476.

Our organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that relies on donations to be able to provide services. We accept the donation of cars, trucks, motorcycles or other types of items that can be given to veterans or sold to raise funds to provide for veterans' needs. Donations should be tax-deductible. You can donate at dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org or by mail at P.O. Box 592, Washington, OK 73093.

We have power wheelchairs and scooters that have been donated. If you know a veteran who needs one, please contact us.

Counselors from the vet centers are here each session, and a Legal Aid representative is here on Thursdays. We have food baskets available for those who qualify.

We are available every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 1268 N. Interstate Drive in Norman. We open the doors by 5:30 a.m. and we begin working as soon as volunteers have computers ready. Our line starts as early as 4.

Visit dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org or contact us at 550-8806 for information or for more information.

As always, 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.

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