Organization Reaches Out To Wounded Warriors
(April 23, 2011)
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
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 – 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.
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.
Commander Wallace E. “Wally” Tyson called DAV's
contribution a vital link to the newest
generation of disabled veterans.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
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