USA — Organization Reaches Out to Wounded Warriors

WASHINGTON — In what start­ed out as a small pilot pro­gram, mem­bers of Dis­abled Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans, work­ing with the Defense and Vet­er­ans Affairs depart­ments, began vis­it­ing wound­ed war­riors at Fort Bragg, N.C., to talk about ben­e­fits and ser­vices avail­able to them after they leave active duty.
Now 40 DAV tran­si­tion ser­vice offi­cers have become reg­u­lars at 144 mil­i­tary instal­la­tions par­tic­i­pat­ing in the joint VA-DOD Ben­e­fits Deliv­ery and Dis­charge Pro­gram, which pro­vides tran­si­tion assis­tance to sep­a­rat­ing ser­vice mem­bers who incurred dis­abil­i­ties relat­ed to their mil­i­tary ser­vice.

National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo.
Dis­abled Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans Nation­al Com­man­der Wal­lace E. “Wal­ly” Tyson, address­ing par­tic­i­pants in the Nation­al Dis­abled Vet­er­ans Win­ter Sports Clin­ic in Snow­mass Vil­lage, Colo., in March 2011, said DAV is reach­ing out to wound­ed war­riors and the newest gen­er­a­tion of dis­abled vet­er­ans.
VA pho­to
Click to enlarge

DAV Nation­al Com­man­der Wal­lace E. “Wal­ly” Tyson called DAV’s con­tri­bu­tion a vital link to the newest gen­er­a­tion of dis­abled vet­er­ans.

“We want to get to those vet­er­ans before they are released from active duty so we can help get them on a path toward rein­sti­tut­ing a life for them­selves and mak­ing sure they know what ben­e­fits are avail­able to them and their fam­i­lies,” he told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

As part­ners in mil­i­tary tran­si­tion assis­tance pro­grams and dis­abil­i­ty tran­si­tion assis­tance pro­grams, DAV tran­si­tion ser­vice offi­cers con­duct or par­tic­i­pate in pre-dis­charge brief­in­gs, review wound­ed war­riors’ treat­ment records on request and con­fer with Defense and Labor Depart­ment offi­cials and oth­er par­tic­i­pants in the dis­charge process.

The pro­gram, Tyson said, enables DAV to help ser­vice mem­bers through the process of devel­op­ing evi­dence, com­plet­ing appli­ca­tions and pros­e­cut­ing claims for vet­er­ans ben­e­fits admin­is­tered under fed­er­al, state and local laws. But one of the biggest ben­e­fits of the effort, he added, is ensur­ing that sep­a­rat­ing ser­vice mem­bers don’t find them­selves in a sit­u­a­tion where their mil­i­tary ben­e­fits are dis­con­tin­ued and VA ben­e­fits have not yet start­ed.

“I can’t overem­pha­size the val­ue of the com­plete pack­age,” agreed Ron Minter, DAV’s nation­al ser­vice offi­cer super­vi­sor for Mary­land. “When [tran­si­tion assis­tance offi­cers] have that oppor­tu­ni­ty, it allows more prompt ser­vice and a smoother tran­si­tion and, to a greater degree, a seam­less tran­si­tion” from mil­i­tary to civil­ian life.

And even if tran­si­tion­ing ser­vice mem­bers may not feel the need for DAV sup­port now, Tyson said, that ini­tial con­tact lays impor­tant ground­work for future help, when and if it is need­ed. DAV’s out­reach to wound­ed war­riors about to make this tran­si­tion is a nat­ur­al exten­sion of its his­toric mis­sion to serve vet­er­ans with ser­vice-con­nect­ed dis­abil­i­ties and their fam­i­lies, he said.

Robert S. Marx, a cap­tain who had been wound­ed in the Meuse-Argonne Offen­sive in France in Novem­ber 1918, is cred­it­ed with found­ing DAV to serve dis­abled World War I vet­er­ans who returned home to lit­tle gov­ern­ment sup­port. Con­gress, impressed with its effec­tive­ness, char­tered DAV in 1932 as the pri­ma­ry advo­cate for dis­abled vet­er­ans.

Nine­ty-one years since its found­ing, Tyson said, DAV is as rel­e­vant today as it’s been at any time in its his­to­ry. He not­ed the grow­ing num­ber of vet­er­ans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have joined its 1.2 mil­lion-mem­ber ranks, ben­e­fit­ing from its claims and ben­e­fits assis­tance and its vol­un­tary ser­vices pro­gram.

DAV offers a broad range of ser­vices to dis­abled vet­er­ans, all at no charge, thanks in large part to an army of more than 14,000 vol­un­teers. Some dri­ve a fleet of more than 1,400 vans, trans­port­ing vet­er­ans to VA med­ical cen­ters, super­mar­kets or even bar­ber shops. Oth­ers vol­un­teer their ser­vices at VA med­ical facil­i­ties and region­al clin­ics.

In addi­tion, a cadre of high­ly trained nation­al ser­vice offi­cers, all with wartime-ser­vice-con­nect­ed dis­abil­i­ties, reviews vet­er­ans’ claims and ensures vet­er­ans know what ben­e­fits and ser­vices they’re enti­tled to.

Dur­ing 2010 alone, they inter­viewed almost 185,000 vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies, Tyson report­ed. As a result, they filed more than 250,000 new claims for ben­e­fits, obtain­ing $5.1 bil­lion in new and retroac­tive ben­e­fits for the dis­abled vet­er­ans they rep­re­sent­ed.

In addi­tion, DAV employs nine nation­al appeals offi­cers who rep­re­sent dis­abled vet­er­ans before the VA’s Board of Vet­er­ans’ Appeals. Last year, these nation­al appeals offi­cers rep­re­sent­ed appel­lants in about 5,000 cas­es. Of those cas­es, Tyson report­ed, almost three-quar­ters result­ed in the orig­i­nal deci­sions being over­turned or remand­ed to region­al office rat­ing boards for addi­tion­al devel­op­ment and re-adju­di­ca­tion.

In an effort to bet­ter sup­port dis­abled vet­er­ans, DAV is increas­ing its out­reach into rur­al areas and oth­er areas where vet­er­ans tra­di­tion­al­ly have been under­served. Dur­ing 2010, DAV’s 10 new mobile ser­vice offices trav­eled almost 115,000 miles and vis­it­ed 815 cities and towns to inter­view more than 20,000 vet­er­ans and oth­er poten­tial claimants, Tyson report­ed.

“This out­reach effort gen­er­ates a con­sid­er­able amount of claims work from those vet­er­ans who may not oth­er­wise have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to seek assis­tance at DAV nation­al ser­vice offices,” he said.

One of the more pop­u­lar out­reach efforts, the “Harley’s Heroes” project, involves set­ting up DAV booths at local Harley-David­son Motor Co. deal­er­ships that under­write the cost of the project. Mobile ser­vice offices vis­it­ed 183 Harley-David­son deal­er­ships last year. In addi­tion to serv­ing up refresh­ments and dis­trib­ut­ing infor­ma­tion, DAV nation­al ser­vice offi­cers offered to review vet­er­ans’ paper­work to help in deter­min­ing whether they’re eli­gi­ble for ben­e­fits or ser­vices.

“We want them to bring any evi­dence they have, if they nev­er filed a claim or want to reopen a claim,” Tyson said. “And they’re get­ting the best of both worlds. They don’t have to trav­el [to a VA facil­i­ty], and they are going to get an expert work­ing on their claim. Our nation­al ser­vice offi­cers are the best-trained out there.”

With most of its cur­rent mem­bers from the Viet­nam War era, Tyson said, it’s time for the orga­ni­za­tion to throw its sup­port to the nation’s youngest dis­abled vet­er­ans and wel­come them into the fold.

“We don’t want a repeat [of the Viet­nam home­com­ing expe­ri­ence],” Tyson said. “We hope we have learned from those mis­takes, and to a great degree, I believe we as a nation have. Now we want to incor­po­rate the younger vet­er­ans. It’s our turn to men­tor them and let them take some of the lead­er­ship roles” with­in DAV.

“I believe, per­son­al­ly, that we are the best advo­cates for dis­abled vet­er­ans, their wives, their wid­ows, their chil­dren and their sur­vivors,” Tyson said. “That is because we have one and only one mis­sion: to build bet­ter lives for dis­abled Amer­i­can vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies. We have struck to that since this orga­ni­za­tion was found­ed, and I believe that is the rea­son the orga­ni­za­tion is so suc­cess­ful.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →