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Veterans Beat: When it comes to benefits, service officers can change lives

by Ron Seman Published: January 19, 2014 12:00 AM

In my 26-plus years of answering questions from veterans on how they might get help on their particular benefit claim, I've steadfastly advised them to seek out a service officer affiliated with one of the many veterans organizations.

A story in the January issue of the VFW national magazine, tells it all: "VFW Service Officer Garners Record Claim of $500,000."

For one Vietnam veteran, walking into the VFW service office at VFW National Headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., was a life-changing experience.

According to the article the 66-year-old Marine Corps vet, who has asked to remain anonymous, received $500,000 in compensation last April. He also gained a 100 percent disability rating for claims related to PTSD, ischemic heart disease and service-connected hearing loss.

The magazine adds: "That was all after working with Rachel Powell, a VFW-accredited service officer. It is the single largest monetary award Powell says she has seen a veteran receive."

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In this particular case, the veteran first filed a claim in 1996, but it was denied, and he did not file an appeal until 2011 when ischemic heart disease was added to VA's presumptive list for service-connected issues.

With help from Powell, the veteran received retroactive compensation for the years he waited between claims.

The nine-year VFW employee said "We understand the 'VA jargon', so we can cut through the red tape, so to speak.

"We know what the letters are asking for, so we can easily navigate the system."

In 2012, some 125,000 veterans worked with 276 VFW service officers to recover nearly $3.7 billion in VA benefits. This is a free service available to any veteran, regardless of VFW membership.

For those of you who have asked for help, you can remember that I suggested you contact a patient and continue to submit claims when a change in VA law occurs.

"Service officers are up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations, meaning they are an unparalleled resource for knowing what benefits or compensations a veteran is eligible for," the VFW article says.

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