Local DAV Chapter Is Here To Help Veterans

Disabled American Veterans was founded in 1920 by World War I veterans to assist disabled veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

Their mission statement says, “we are dedicated to a single purpose: empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. We accomplish this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.”

The Sapulpa Chapter has a cadre of dedicated volunteer veterans who offer their services to anyone who served in the military and has incurred injury or illness during active service.

Joe Strain is one of those six who help veterans deal with the bureaucratic red tape. “We help any veteran establish their claim with the VA for a disability,” he said.

Strain says they’re called “Veterans Service Officers,” and they go through a certification process with Disabled American Veterans, and get recertified each year to stay updated on the know-how to establish a claim for a veteran to get their disability benefits.

Joe Strain sits in his office at the local chapter of Disabled American Veterans, where he assists veterans with disability claims. Charles Betzler photo.

Strain said veterans are eligible if they are disabled, or as a result of being assigned somewhere, and they acquired a medical problem. Strain himself is also a disabled veteran. “I am a Vietnam Veteran with Agent Orange poisoning.” 

Updates to the program include the recently passed PACT (Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics), meant to help millions of toxics-exposed veterans.

“In the past, we had a certain amount of identified, approved, medical issues that we could put in a claim for,” Strain said.

“Maybe Agent Orange, and under that had certain conditions that the government said ‘okay, we understand, we agree, this can be filed for as a disability claim,’ providing the person filing can prove they were in the service, that they were ‘in country,’—in reference to Vietnam—and met all the requirements to get the disability approved.”

The next step in the process, according to Strain, is that the individual is told to go see a doctor selected by the VA. The doctor “validates” that person’s medical claim and determines how the disability affects the person’s quality of life. The doctor then submits a report to the VA, which then establishes a rating to the person. “How much are they disabled, what percent,” Strain says. The percentage of disability dictates the amount of compensation paid to the veteran filing the claim.

Strain said he and the other service officers work with veterans who have never filed before and those who have claims denied. “There can be many different reasons (for a denial),” he said. “Maybe the person couldn’t prove that they had a certain problem, or they couldn’t meet the requirements of filing a claim, or the VA disagreed with what the person was saying on the form.”

“So they will sit down in front of us with their decline letter and we will look at what the VA has said, and then we’ll help them turn in the appeal to that denial. There are many different levels of the appeal, it can go all the way up to requesting that a judge sit down and listen to the case.”

Strain says that that old adage rings true: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

“We can do this thing over and over and over with veterans. It is not like a one-time shot,” he said.

“If you send in an appeal and you get denied, again, we will look at the language which the VA has provided and we will react accordingly to whatever they said. We refile and just keep doing this until we have  won the case, or we have gotten to what you might call the Supreme Court level and you’re done after the final decree.”

Filing for disability isn’t the only service the DAV offers.

Jim Lakey, Commander of the Sapulpa Chapter says he has been in the Sapulpa Chapter for nearly 15 years and has seen the service officers help many veterans. He said bingo has started again and through the years has received a substantial amount of money to help veterans with physical and mental health needs.

Treasurer Tom Orn told the Sapulpa Herald that he is preparing to buy an Automatic External Defibrillator for the safety of the patrons.

The service officers are available on Mondays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., at 1429 South Main St. For further information contact the Sapulpa DAV at davsapulpaso@yahoo.com.