Monday, April 2, 2012
Caleb Duty, a U.S. Marine and multi-tour veteran of the Iraq War, filled out his claim for compensation and pension, and waited to hear from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
He called once a month; then he waited some more.
And waited, called again, then waited some more.
“It finally got to where it was kind of an embarrassment, where it seemed like they were just waiting for me to give up.”
Then he found a savvy veterans service officer employed by McLennan County who helped him fill out his paperwork with the quality of answers the questions it takes for the VA to honor the evidence of disability required to perfect a claim.
It wasn't good enough for the combat grunt.(click here to listen to the Director of the American Legion lay out the organization's plan for returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.)
He reverted to an old pattern. That's what he always did when he was a kid, even a high school student. You get a bunch of the guys together and camp out over the weekend on the family ranch near Robinson. That is how you thrash out your problems; you cut for the fort and talk it over, make your plans, devise a strategy and take the tactical approach that strategy indicates.
Get his fellow veterans together for a weekend of fun, sun, country music and cold brew.
But there he ran into a snag. The neighbors along the rural road protested his permit application. Traffic congestion could make it hard for ambulances and other emergency vehicles to get to homes along the route.
Fortunately, the gang found a place for the Moonlight Music Festival planned for May 25-27 at the Bosque Bottoms National Barbecue Cook-off grounds in Meridian. Billy Joe Shaver will headline dozens of country and western acts for the three day affair, tickets for which sell for $30 a head, plus camping or RV fees.
But that's the point. The money will be used to help veterans thread the maze, find the solution, tackle the bureaucracy and find compensation and pension benefits, housing financing, educational benefits and continuing health care.
It's not easy. In fact, there is a an entire Title of the U.S. Code Annotated that deals with nothing other than Veterans Affairs.
That's where the American Legion comes in. With the help of the National Veterans Legal Services Program, the Legion educates hundreds of certified Veterans Services Officers to help veterans assemble the evidence and process the paperwork that it will take to convince a hearing officer and review board that he or she is eligible. (click here to learn about NVLSP)
That's going to take money for training, books, materials, computers, internet hook-ups and transportation to and from Veterans Affairs Regional Offices such as the one at 701 Clay in Waco.
Caleb Duty envisions a system of American Legion and VFW Posts in which a designated member has the proper training and access to information it takes to help a veteran perfect a claim.
Posted by The Legendary at 6:08 PM