The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

December 24, 2012

DAV helps veterans obtain benefits when necessary

By Justin Jones, Staff Writer
The Stanly News & Press

Monday, December 24, 2012 — Soldiers in the American military become like brothers when defending the red, white and blue on the battlefield, on the sea or in the air.

Veterans at the Stanly County DAV have continued that mindset, as the DAV remains committed to helping Veterans keeping them safe on this side of the battlefield.

Nationally, DAV (Dis-abled American Veterans) offices across the country helped more than 215,000 veterans claim benefits that are available to them through their military service.

In 2012, the Stanly DAV Chapter 12 office has been open 49 Saturdays, volunteered 251 hours and assisted nearly 100 veterans or their widowed spouses. In addition to helping with claims, the DAV has a ritual team that provides the appropriate memorials at a veteran’s funeral, and provide transportation for veterans in need of a transport to medical appointments.  

When veterans need the DAV’s help for claims, Chapter Service Officer Mickey Drye has been on the other side of the table assisting those veterans and their wives claim benefits in their health coverage, education, home mortgages or home modifications be-cause of injuries or disabilities from their service.

“We never lose focus on the fact that it is the veteran’s claim. It’s his or her benefits. Our goal is to get them benefits and help them ascertain and get the maximum they’re allowed to get under the law,” Drye said.

Stanly County DAV Chapter 12 is led by Cmdr. Bobby Williams, who is a Vietnam veteran. Like Drye, who was a Vietnam-era veteran serving in Korea, Williams carries the same passion and hope that veterans will take advantage of their local DAV.

“We’re trying to make the veterans aware of the benefits they have earned,” Williams said.

Because of privacy laws, names and specific instances of a veteran’s claim cannot be made public, but as claims become complicated, Drye, along with other service officers, can help explain what paperwork and forms are needed. Officers who assist with claims through the DAV are certified and take yearly test to stay refreshed in their certifications.

Claims can take up to a year to process as they are sent to the national Veterans Affairs (VA) office for review, but with the proper documentation veterans can have access to benefits they have missed out on in previous years.

According to Drye, a veteran must have a current diagnosis, which requires one that was given within the last 12 months. That includes either a diagnosis, treatment or medication that is being continued.

Secondly, claims should have some type of reference found in the soldier’s records, either of signs, symptoms or treatment of an injury. In some circumstances, the government has found connections between certain wars and physical conditions in which the military’s documentation of any treatment while in combat is not needed.

Lastly, the veteran must prove a history of the medical condition staying with the veteran. An instance might include a soldier falling out of a humvee and hurting his or her knee or kneecap. If the soldier had that injury documented and treated in some way, and the injury has stayed with the veteran, then the veteran has a better chance of a successful claim.

“DAV Service Officers are trained to interview with a veteran and help develop information that can lead to a successful claim and we’re trained on how to develop paperwork and how to fill it out,” Drye said.

Other agencies such as the Veteran’s Service Office and the American Legion Post 520 have trained officers that can do what the DAV is doing. Having more options allows the veterans a choice in who represents them as the agencies don’t work in competition to each other, but “compliment each other,” Drye said.

One of the primary issues for why veterans are confused or unaware is because of the timing and process on how they are briefed about veterans affairs.

In most instances, veterans are told to see a service officer to assist with any possible claims as they are waiting to return home. With the soldier’s thoughts racing elsewhere in a briefing room, the information gets displaced.

But with the help of a service officer, the link can be reconnected in helping Stanly County veterans get the benefits that they earned.

“It’s just veterans helping veterans. That’s what we’re here for,” Williams said.

“At DAV, one of our stated goals is to build a better life for our disabled veterans and they’re families, and this is one of the ways we do it is to ensure that they get their benefits,” Drye said.